Characters: Warhammer 40000 Imperial Guard
For every hero commemorated, a thousand martyrs die, unmourned and unremembered.
To each of us falls a task. And all the Emperor requires of us Guardsmen is that we stand the line, and we die fighting. It is what we do best: we die standing.
In Warhammer 40,000
, the superhuman Space Marines
may be the Imperium's most exalted warriors, but the overwhelming majority of its battles are fought by the untold billions in the Astra Militarum, more commonly known as the Imperial Guard, ordinary men and women who hold the line in defense of humanity.
The worlds of the Imperium are required to pay a regular tithe in support of its endless conflicts, and part is paid in regiments for the Imperial Guard. Each Guardsman is equipped with a lasgun that while capable of blowing off limbs is among the weakest weapons in the setting, as well as flak armor
that most other armies' standard weaponry can punch right through. His training is filled with propaganda and misinformation, his commanders are willing to expend millions of men and machines
in a conflict like he himself will expend ammunition, and if he harbors any doubts there are commissars ready to summarily execute cowards
. A Guardsman's individual odds aren't good, but if the Imperium has any resource in abundance, it's manpower.
The Imperial Guard is descended from the Imperial Army that supported the Space Marine Legions during the Great Crusade, though after the Horus Heresy
it was divided into a separate army and Imperial Navy so that a renegade general couldn't command both troops and the means to deploy them. The Astra Militarum encourages both standardization of equipment and specialization of regiments, allowing worlds or cultures to contribute troops that play to their strengths. Thus, the regiments from the death world of Catachan are renowned jungle fighters, the Armageddon Steel Legions are famous for their mechanized infantry, the Elysian Drop Troops are the Guard's premier airborne infantry, and so forth. This gives Imperial commanders a variety of tactics with which to smite the Emperor's enemies, from aerial assaults to artillery bombardments to armored blitzkriegs, though many generals are satisfied with throwing Guardsmen into a conflict until it is won.
On the tabletop, few armies can field as many soldiers as the Imperial Guard, which is fortunate, as they are comparatively lightly-armed and -armored, and have morale that's highly contingent on their proximity to a commanding officer or commissar. On the other hand, few armies can bring as many weapons to bear in a single Shooting phase as the Guard, so while one lasgun is unlikely to get results, fifty or sixty firing in salvos will
. The Imperial Guard is also famous for their tanks, unsophisticated and unsubtle metal monsters deployed in numbers bordering on the absurd, and capable of reducing any target to a smoking crater. However, the key to the Imperial Guard's popularity may be that they're basically normal people forced into unimaginably bad situations, but who can prevail with luck, faith in the God-Emperor, and overwhelming firepower.
I am an Imperial commissar. I will enflame the weak, support the wavering, guide the lost. I will be all things to all men who need me. But I will also punish without hesitation the incompetent, the cowardly, and the treasonous.
The Officio Prefectus, more commonly known as the Commissariat, is an organization of political officers that works alongside the Imperial Guard while maintaining its own command structure and bureaucracy. Commissars are trained in the Schola Progenium from childhood to embody the Imperial Creed, and are attached to Guard regiments to fulfill multiple roles regarding the dissemination of information, maintaining morale amongst the troops, enforcing discipline, and keeping rear-echelon politics from hampering higher-ranking Guard officers in their duties. In rare cases, a Commissar may also hold a military rank, although this is generally seen as a conflict of interest and only done in unusual circumstances.
To perform these tasks to their peak, Commissars are trained to be utterly fearless, and at times utterly ruthless. They have the authority to summarily execute anyone, from the lowest grunt to the highest general, who tries to desert or displays cowardice or gross incompetence, and quite often use the threat of such harsh discipline to instill fear in the troops they fight alongside. As a result, Commissars tend to be portrayed as the ultimate Bad Bosses
, seen as boogeymen by Guardsmen who are ready to shoot you if you so much as look backwards in a fight. However, the ideal Commissar leads by example, charging into the thick of battle without hesitation to act as a symbol of Imperial might for troops to rally around and only turning his bolt pistol on those who utterly fail the God-Emperor. Also, some Commissars in the fluff are very aware that their trigger-happy comrades are a liability to their troops and are much more likely to be killed by friendly fire than enemies, which is acknowledged in the Guard's codex.
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Imperial Guard tropes
- Ascended Extra: While the Imperial Guard was never an insignificant presence, it tended to be little more than background Cannon Fodder in older editions. More recently however, the Guardsmen have definitely become more prominent in fluff as well as a more formidable force to be reckoned. See Took a Level in Badass below.
- Amazon Brigade: In the fluff, there are entire armies of Imperial Guard that are composed solely of women, but this is not supported so much in the models. Lampshaded in the Ciaphas Cain novels, where it's explained that women make up roughly 10% of the draftees for the Imperial Guard, and are typically formed into women-only regiments, which among other things has certain practical benefits. Namely, avoiding certain special incidents that can only result from a mixed-gender unit.
- Armies Are Evil: Played with. On one hand, the Imperial Guard is largely made up of regular (if badass) human beings who want to live to see another day and will fight if that's what it takes. One the other hand, certain regiments have rather dark themes like the Death Korps of Krieg or the Salvar Chem Dogs and can't really be called noble, average people. This of course doesn't go into how bloodthirsty and amoral some of the upper brass can be...
- Armor Is Useless: Zig-zagged. On the tabletop and in the overall fluff, a Guardsman's standard-issue flak armour is only enough to stop other lasguns, nevermind the heavy weapons varieties of lasguns or the multitude of heavier weapons that the non-human armies use. There's a reason that Imperial Guard armament is referred to as "t-shirts and flashlights"◊ by fans. However, in Gaiden Games such as Dark Heresy and Only War, flak armour is actually a reasonably effective and inexpensive armour choice, and can stop stubber rounds (functionally a World War II-era firearm) and even a shot from a lasgun. It's telling that in this universe, stuff that is regarded as bottom-rung and hopelessly inadequate is stuff that real life special forces would kill to get their hands on.
- Badass: Chances are pretty good that if you're in the Imperial Guard and still alive, you're this by default.
- Badass Army: Without Bio-Augmentation, Super Strength, Super Toughness, Powered Armor, Psychic Powers, or the most advanced technology, the Imperial Guard gets by on good old-fashioned combined arms warfare...and massive, massive casualties.
- Badass Boast: Every regimental motto.
- Badass Nickname: The Hammer of the Emperor.
- Badass Normal: Their whole schtick. In a setting with super-soldiers so augmented they barely count as human any more, hulking monstrosities that can rip men apart with their bare hands, psychic bullet-dodging ancients who train for centuries in deadly warrior arts, undying alien zombie robots, and unstoppable devouring hordes from beyond the edges of the galaxy, one of the strongest factions is basically a lot of ordinary humans with laser rifles and flak jackets backed up by tanks and artillery. Kinda makes you proud, doesn't it? Although, that's only counting for regular Guardsmen and Stormtroopers: Ogyrns, Ratlings and psykers obviously don't count, and even some of the more impressive people (like Sgt. Harker and Sly Marbo) do occasionally leave you wondering just how "normal" they are.
- Colonel Badass: More than a few regimental Colonels.
- Bad Boss: Many officers, commanders and generals are this, spending the lives of their soldiers and the munitions and tanks they command like credits in a casino.
- Base on Wheels: The Leviathan mobile command center, as well as the Capitol Imperialis, which can house tank companies.
- Battle Thralls: Regiments raised from worlds that have been on the wrong side of an Imperial conflict in the past and have since been reconquered tend to be thought of as "penitent," raising soldiers en masse to fight for the Imperium to absolve themselves of the sins for their ancestors. They tend to fall into the "Taskmaster" type, because rather than fighting grudgingly, many of them are whipped up into a zealous Death Seeker like state as atonement. The Death Korps of Krieg are an obvious example, the Vostroyan Firstborn are a more downplayed example.
- Bayonet Ya: The bayonet is nearly as synonymous to the average Guardsman's weaponry as the lasgun that it's attached to. Being forced to use it as a Puny Earthling comparatively weaker and/or saner to one of his many enemies individually is a fairly powerful image.
- Beam Spam: The only way to effectively use lasguns is in bulk, as explained here◊.
- BFG: Heavy Weapon Teams, the Basilisk mobile artillery's Earthshaker cannon, and then we move into super-heavy battle tank territory...
- Big Book of War: The Tactica Imperium is a collection of countless commanders' combined battlefield experiences, containing advice on topics from barricade construction to force organization. Imperial generals may find it useful, though they have to keep in mind that it occasionally contradicts itself, should not be adhered to too strictly, and some passages are best read as metaphors.
- Bigger Stick: Codified in Imperial deployment doctrine. The harder a given force pushes, the more regiments are raised and deployed in response.
- Blatant Lies:
- One specific Catachan rule has the player roll before battle starts to see if the local Commissar dies to a horrible, completely unintentional misunderstanding behind his own lines. The rule is even called "Oops, Sorry Sir!"
- The Infantryman's Uplifting Primer, a sort of instruction manual handed out to Guardsmen, contains a lot of these especially, as far as details on the enemy are concerned. It puts forward such gems of information as "Orks are feeble and brittle-boned", "Eldar technology is far inferior to our own", "Tyranids are dim-witted sluggish mindless beasts" and "Tau weapons are puny and require sustained fire to even injure a human being". Of course, such lies are necessary: morale is bad enough without Guardsmen learning that Orks can rip a man apart with their bare hands, that flak armour does jack against Eldar monomolecular shuriken guns, that the Tyranid hordes are guided by a superhumanly intelligent Hive Mind that often humiliates competent human generals, and that Tau railguns can hit with such force that not only do they punch holes through tanks but they also suck the crew out of the exit hole.
- Boring, but Practical: Lasguns are far from the most impressive weapons in the Warhammer 40K universe, but they're cheap, reliable, and have easy logistics (they can be recharged by any light source, including campfires). Despite the reputation they have for being as good as flashlights, they are deadly weapons at least on par with modern assault rifles, that can blow limbs clean off of unarmored humans. It's just that all the other armies' standard weapons are ludicrously overpowered.
- This is why Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) carries around a humble laspistol when he has access to a much more potent bolt pistol or hellpistol; the difference in ammo count the laspistol affords has saved his life many times in the field. He's also so used to the weight that he thinks a heavier, more powerful weapon would throw off his aim enough for him to possibly miss at a critical moment and get himself killed.
- In an extreme example, judging from the fluff and model, the Heavy Stubber is actually a contemporary Browning Machine Gun, still produced and used thirty-eight thousand years into the future.
- Bullet Proof Vest: Flak Armour is standard-issue for Imperial Guard infantry, and isn't entirely useless as it serves them well enough against the Chaos Cultist rabble, but it can't stand up to the higher caliber weaponry usually fielded by the rest of their foes.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Most of the named regiments have at least a few traits as a result of their homeworld that others find odd or downright strange. Despite this, most of them are the most Badass normal soldiers that the Imperium has to offer and try their damndest to see victory at the end of the day.
- The Catachan Jungle Fighters wouldn't take a bath even on pain of death note , are so paranoid about their surroundings that they'd be institutionalized on other any other world, and are so infamously Hot-Blooded and gung-ho that they make Rambo look like a Cub Scout. They get away with it because they are the single best at Feral World survival (bar none) and get deployed in any conflict on a world that would literally eat another regiment alive.
- The Death Korps of Krieg are a race of fanatical DeathSeekers who seek atonement through their deaths and are so augmented that they just barely count as human anymore, which creeps theother Imperial Guard out and make them stay as far as possible during joint-forces operations. note This is tolerated by the higher brass because their augments allow them to survive hellish conditions and their legendary indifference towards their own deaths lets them fight through the most protracted and bloody sieges that would break any other unit.
- The Mordian Iron Guard are a very highly regimented unit of soldiers who eschew practical uniform colours in favour of wearing fancy brightly-coloured dress uniforms at all times, even in combat. note They also spend as much time marching around in parade formation as they do actual training and go so far as to march in goose-step while being fired on during combat. Everyone overlooks these oddities because they are a Badass Army with competence that gets belied by their appearances and have a reputation for being so disciplined that they rarely if ever break their showy formation.
- The only aversion is the Cadian Shock Troopers, who have no such quirks and are just extremely disciplined, strong, and sane troops who widely considered the most Badass Imperial Guard regiment all-around. Ironically, this could also be an inversion, as the military professionalism of the Cadians on the battlefield is contrasted with... the military professionalism of the Cadians off the battlefield. Every Cadian is a soldier from birth, and even their "civilians" (who are actually reservists) do things like wear camouflage patterns in their cloths, and they do live-fire mock warfare on a regular schedule to stay sharp.
- Butt Monkey: A serious example, which even extended to the players, until around the 4th Edition codex.
- Cannon Fodder: A popular image for the Imperial Guard, though this varies between regiments and commanders. In-game, this is usually the role of Conscript Platoons and Penal Legions, who can serve as Human Shields for other units.
- Again, Chainsword Good: A common melee weapon for Sergeants and other mid-ranking officers.
- Character Exaggeration: The people in charge for the Imperial Guard are frequently portrayed in fan works are being either so sociopathic or incompetent (sometimes both) that it makes one wonder why the Imperium didn't fall long ago. There certainly are such cases, the Imperium being very vast, and it's likely done to emphasize how 40K is Grim Dark (or is Played for Laughs as Black Humor in the Refuge in Audacity of it.). Which it is.
- Chicken Walker: Sentinels, light Mini-Mecha used for scouting and fire support.
- Child Soldiers: In extreme situations, the Imperial Guard will muster regiments of "Whiteshields" that would otherwise be too young to be considered for normal recruitment. Cadia in particular is so heavily militarized that it uses Youth Armies for training, which includes fighting on actual battlefields.
- Church Militant: Considered to be an aspiration for the Imperial Guard, though the success and extremity of this heavily varies between regiments; the Tallarn Desert Raiders for instance are particularly pious to a fault. The regiments raised from Ecclesiarchal fiefdoms, or "shrine worlds", are often this in a nearly literal sense, though they're considered lay-members of the church rather than armed clergy like the Sisters of Battle.
- Combat Medic: Anyone who has medical abilities in the Imperial Guard is otherwise trained and armed similar to standard infantry.
- Combat Pragmatist: Many veterans are aware of how terrible their odds are, so they use every dirty trick in the book to get things done, up to and including procuring black market Astartes or Xenos arms. These methods are not strictly speaking legal (as they're not covered in the Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer) but every veteran knows that they're only illegal if you get caught.
- Crippling Overspecialization: Deliberately invoked at the company level by the Departmento Munitorium when levying Imperial Guard. Any given Imperial Guard company will be trained and equipped for exactly one role, be it foot infantry, mounted infantry, armor, or artillery. The intention being that no company can survive long going rogue, and must rely on other companies for combined arms warfare.
- Death from Above: The Imperial Guard has no less than five different artillery platforms for battlefield use, which can be deployed in squadrons, thus letting them drop more shells or rockets on the other side of the table than any other army.
- Death World: Nearly all of the famous Imperial Guard regiments hail from one of these, since the most brutal environments breed the toughest Badasses.
- Death Seeker: Some of the more fanatical regiments fall into this. The Death Korps of Krieg have this as part of their hat.
- Drill Tank: The Hades Breaching Drill, which is used as a siege-breaker weapon to undermine fortified positions or breach into a reinforced bunker from an unexpected vector. While not a primary attack vehicle in itself (being more of a tunneling armored troop transport,) its power-drills and melta cutters spell death for anything caught in front of its cumbersome path. Note though that Fast Tunnelling is largely averted. The Hades Drill works quickly, but not so quickly it can dig on its own complete tunnel, which must be dug by other means so the Hades can use its power to quickly breach the last few meters to the target.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: When the Astartes are deployed into an ongoing conflict, odds are thousands or millions of Imperial Guard and/or PDF have been holding the line for quite some time already. More often then not the Space Marines who break the siege will ultimately get credit for victory; IG reactions to this tend to vary from relief that their asses were saved to resentment (when their point of view gets brought up at all).
- Elite Mooks:
- Stormtroopers, or formally Militarum Tempestus Scions, are orphans or children plucked from nurseries to be trained as fanatically-loyal special forces units. They're outfitted with improved versions of a Guardsman's wargear (such as the fearsome Hellgun, a more powerful automatic lasgun), earning them monikers such as "Toy Soldiers" and "Glory Boys" from the resentful rank-and-file.
- Cadia's equivalents, the Kasrkin, are chosen from the best recruits or the most skilled veterans, and are therefore closer to the average soldiers, but still able to perform on par with Stormtroopers. Unlike the latter, Kasrkin are looked up to.
- Emotion Suppression: The Death Korps of Krieg's gas masks are fitted with a small augmetic rig which keeps chemicals circulating through their blood ostensibly to help them survive in harsh environmental conditions, but that also keeps their mood extremely even. As a result they feel little depression, hope, or fear, and tend to keep to themselves during combined operations.
- Fan of Underdog: The Imperial Guard owe a lot of their popularity to this trope. The 5th Edition Codex intro puts it best:
- Fast Roping: Valkyrie transports are equipped with line spools for precisely this reason. Stormtroopers in particular tend to train heavily in this technique, and are the most likely to attempt it on the battlefield, forgoing a more cautious insertion when speed of deployment is a priority.
- A Father to His Men: No shortage of these generals, either.
- Follow the Leader: Quick, picture a standard Imperial Guardsman right now. Are you thinking of a man in green flak armour and helmet? That's because the Cadian Shock Troopers have such a reputation as a Badass Army that their designs and doctrines are copied by countless other regiments and PDF forces. There are unique regiments, of course, but the Cadian way of doing things is so widely adopted that it's practically the Imperium standard.
- Four-Star Badass: Not all of the Guard's senior commanders are complete failures. There are plenty of Guard Generals that are strategic geniuses and kick ass just as well.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: The Imperial Guard is the single biggest military organization in the galaxy, and the single biggest user of laser-based Energy Weapons, coming in multiple varieties:
- Lasguns — The most common weapon, the "old-standby" of the Imperium. A rifle-like laser weapon with greater stopping power than the majority of modern conventional projectile firearms, but still one of the comparatively weakest weapons in the setting. There are many regional and functional variations on the design, some with different settings for rate of fire and damage, but all share certain common core parts and take the same charge packs for ammunition (which can be recharged in a few hours from field generators). This is a big part of the reason they are so popular for a massive organization like the Guard. Tend to be easy to keep functionally clean and keep working in rough conditions. Desperate Guardsmen are known to set them to set them to overload and hurl them at the enemy as an improvised grenade.
- Long-las — A marksmen's version of the common lasgun. These are tuned to produce a killing shot at greater distance, usually sacrificing rate of fire and shot capacity per charge pack to achieve this. Experienced Guard snipers often prefer to equip their long-las with overcharge packs to increase their power per-shot, but this results in even fewer shots per pack, and they need to keep several spare barrels on hand as this wears the barrel out very quickly.
- Hellguns — An upscaled version of the lasgun, this achieves a greater punch through the expedient of being bigger and pumping more power into it. This necessitates a much more elaborate cooling system, making a hellgun much more bulky and mechanically complicated than a lasgun. Because the power draw is so much higher, many hellguns attach to Ammunition Backpacks to allow a wielder to pour on the fire, though there are variations which use standard charge packs as well. Because of their size, they are often only used by heavy infantry or dedicated elite forces.
- Hot-shot Lasguns — Lasguns with overcharge packs and special tuning to increase their lethality. The combination of the armor-penetrating punch of the heavier hellguns with the portability of the more common lasguns has made these weapons highly popular with special forces who need to keep their equipment light, such as para-drop storm troopers. However, they have the drawback of wearing out the weapon very quickly; it runs so hot that its components burn out and fuse together with frequent use, making it unsuited to long deployments or situations where supplies are limited. Any guardsmen who is issued one of these must first pass very strict equipment maintenance expertise certifications above and beyond what is expected of a typical guardsmen, as practicality demands that they need to be able to field-strip and replace failing parts themselves. This in turn limits their circulation to mostly elite forces specially trained in their use.
- Multilasers — Essentially a gatling version of the hellgun, it is a multi-barrel weapon capable of maintaining a high rate of fire. They are usually too big to be used by infantry, but are often mounted on vehicles such as the Chimera infantry fighting vehicle to suppress enemy infantry and light vehicles.
- Plasma weaponry — Not as commonly used as the lasgun, these fire superheated bolts of energy that cut through or vaporise the target. Unfortunately, they are much more difficult to manufacture, with only a few forge worlds still capable of doing so. Also, plasma weapons have a tendency to overheat and explode (shown in the game as the "Gets Hot" rule), but sometimes the extra firepower they provide outweighs the risk. The Executioner variant of the Leman Russ, for example, uses a large plasma cannon.
- Future Copter: The Valkyrie Assault Carrier, the Guard's air transport of choice, is also well armed with a multilaser and missiles. However, even more deadly is the up-gunned variant the Vendetta Gunship, which trades out its lasers and missiles for the massive firepower of three twin-linked lascannons while still retaining its dropship capabilities.
- Gas Mask, Longcoat: Many regiments, depending on their home environment. The Armageddon Steel Legion wear them because they come from a hive world, while the Death Korps of Krieg wear them because they come from a radiological wasteland... and also to disguise the fact that they're clones.
- General Failure: There's no shortage of Guard generals who got their position entirely through family connections and interdepartmental politicking, and who couldn't command their way out of a wet paper bag. Many follow the We Have Reserves school of Imperial tactics, reasoning that even the most egregious tactical errors can be overcome by throwing enough men at the problem. The most incompetent of them even manage to screw that up.
- Note that due to Character Exaggeration and Flanderization, these types of leaders get over-represented within the Imperium. If every last general and officer was that incompetent, sociopathic, bloodthirsty, etc., the Imperium would probably have collapsed long ago. The few extreme outliers can be chalked up to any sufficiently large organization having some less-than-ideal leaders in its chain of command.
- Genre Savvy: Despite their "training", most Guardsmen know precisely how bad their odds are in the universe. They compensate by employing every dirty trick in the book from camo netting to mines to snipers to good old fashioned cowardice. In the event a commanding officer or commissar insists they hold the line and fight bravely against impossible odds, Guardsmen have been known to insist back.
- Glory Seeker: Many COs.
- Heroic Build: Catachans are famed for their tall frames and muscles on muscles, earning them nicknames like "Baby Ogryns." It's not just that they come from a Death World, but one with higher gravity than Terran standard.
- Highly Conspicuous Uniform: Generally averted by most regiments, who tend to wear practical uniforms with either dull unassuming colors or camouflage, but a few play this straight. The Mordian Iron Guard, for example, come from a Night World subject to frequent Chaos incursions, so their parade-style dress may well be justified in helping tell Friend From Foe, and to keep the troops fighting and sane in the face of the mind-blasting horrors they are up against. Some enemies even make the mistake of assuming that the flashy colors mean the Mordians are a purely ceremonial force.
- Hold the Line: How an Imperial Guard campaign will probably play out at some point or another. A common sardonic joke among the fans goes to the tune of "The Imperial Guard. It's a thankless job, but if you're willing to stand your ground and give it your all... you just might be able to buy enough time for the Space Marines to take all the credit."
- Hollywood Tactics: They've gotten much better at avoiding this, but sadly there's still the occasional regiment that's led by a particularly incompetent or inexperienced or even ruthless commander. Many of these clowns just settle for the old "keep throwing men and tanks at the enemy and wear them down". Some even manage to screw that up.
- Home Guard: Worlds in the Imperium maintain their own Planetary Defense Forces, and the best of these are sent as levies when it's time to pay a tithe; thus, the PDF is looked down upon by "proper" Guardsmen as ill-disciplined and unsuitable for prolonged engagements, a stereotype it all too commonly lives down to. There are notable exceptions, however, such as the Cadian Home Guard, randomly drawn from the Cadians highly-trained regiments, and the Ultramar Auxilia, which is led by and fights alongside the Ultramarines.
- Horse of a Different Color: Rough Riders units are traditionally mounted on horses, but depending on the world they're raised from can ride on predatory birds, giant lizards, or stranger creatures. Of course, industrialized worlds' Rough Riders are often fielded on motorcycles.
- Hot-Blooded: Having survived the notoriously and ridiculously lethal environment of their home planet, Catachans have a reputation for being recklessly brave in combat, eagerly using demolition charges and flamers, weaponry infamous for being a potential danger to the user as much as enemies. This is not to say that Catachans are incautious, but rather that their home planet is so deadly that they become accustomed to danger and anything else seems laughable in comparison.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Subverted. Though they have a reputation as unreliable shots, Guardsmen have average Ballistic Skill, and statistically half of their ranged attacks (of which they make very many) will hit. Actual Stormtroopers shoot as well as Space Marines and have a two out of three chance of hitting the mark.
- Interservice Rivalry: You have the traditional rivalry between the Imperial Navy and the ground-pounders, between Glory Seeker COs and Spotlight Stealing Space Marine companies, between regiments from different planets, and occasionally between regiments from the same planet if their culture is particularly competitive.
- It's Raining Men: They're not Space Marines, but the Guard can make good use of conventional air deployments. The Elysian regiments are particularly good at this - a typical drop operation will involve a few Valkyrie transports coming in fast and low to Fast Rope stormtroopers in to secure an initial landing zone, with larger numbers of higher-flying Valkyries following shortly in their wake to deploy reinforcements via grav-chutes.
- Jack of All Stats: The basic Leman Russ battle tank is not the toughest, fastest, or most powerful armored vehicle out there. However, its impressive array of weapons can deal with just about any threat, it's quite tough, and while cumbersome it can maintain its rate of fire while advancing at a constant speed, all for a very cost-effective price. Its only weakness is a vulnerability to attacks from behind, which is hardly exclusive to the Leman Russ, and mitigated when the tanks are deployed in squadrons or with infantry support. It also serves as the basis for a wide variety of more specialized derivations such as the Vanquisher tank hunter or Demolisher siege tank.
- Made of Plasticine: With their weak flak armor and mediocre Toughness characteristic, if someone shoots at and hits an Imperial Guardsman, statistically-speaking he's probably dead.
- Martyrdom Culture: The Death Korps of Krieg, if the name wasn't enough to convince you. Once, Krieg was a prosperous hive world with a decadent noble class. The nobles decided to go rogue and declare independence from the Imperium. A bitter civil war between rebels and Imperial loyalists ravaged the planet and eventually the desperately outnumbered loyalists turned to drastic measures. Through a combination of strategic nuking and bloody siege and attrition warfare, the loyalists slowly took back their planet inch by inch over the course of five hundred years until they were able to re-assert Imperial authority. All children are brainwashed from birth to feel only guilt for their ancestors, and to make up for their ancestor's dishonour by fighting and dying for the Emperor, throwing themselves into the bloodiest conflicts and meatgrinders in the galaxy. They are infamous for their iron discipline, fanatical loyalty to the Emperor, and suicidal disregard for casualties. It has been noted that the Death Korps simply don't need Commissars,note as their desertion rate is zero and even the rank-and-file soldiers will execute their own comrades if they show a hint of cowardice or reluctance. Individual Kriegsmen don't even have names, just serial numbers.
- Mildly Military: Sentinel pilots are used to acting independently and on their own initiative, so wise commanders are willing to look the other way if they advance without orders.
- Mighty Glacier: The Leman Russ battle tank has the Lumbering Behemoth special rule, crippling its mobility compared to other tanks, but allowing it to fire additional weapons along with its main cannon. Fitting with the trope, there are only two non-super heavy vehicles in the entire game that are harder to take down than a Leman Russ.
- More Dakka: Taking a cue from the Orks, the Leman Russ Punisher variant has a gatling cannon that fires twenty shots a round, theoretically capable of turning entire Ork mobs into goo. You can have up to twelve of them in a standard Imperial Guard army.
- If that's not enough for you, see the Stormlord, a variant of the Baneblade super-heavy tank equipped with a Vulcan Mega-Bolter, ten rotating heavy bolters, on top of its sponson- or pintle-mounted weapons. Horde of Orks charging the lines? What horde of Orks?
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The "Death Korps of Krieg". Don't judge from the name. They're a really cheery and friendly bunch. Honest.
- Officer and a Gentleman: The Imperium has a convention of granting parcels of territory to ranking officers during its crusades of conquest. This has the effect of creating noble families with strong military traditions, and established noble families seeking to expand their own domains and influence via taking commanding positions in new crusades. The end result is that the upper echelons of a large scale operation are almost entirely recruited from the aristocracy. The quality of these commanders is quite variable, with the best ones usually coming from families with long histories of noblesse oblige to the Imperium, while the worst tend to be Glory Seekers more used to courtly intrigue with little regard for the forces under them.
- One-Gender Race: Though there are the odd all-female, or even rarer mixed-gender Imperial Guard regiments, there have been approximately four Imperial Guardswoman models in Games Workshop's range. The novels or Only War RPG are better about this.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: The Imperial Guard, with its vast legions of hardened fighting men and devastatingly powerful battle tanks and artillery, would be an absolutely unbeatable fighting force in real life, or in most other sci-fi universes. A fairly decent approximation of the Imperial Guard's fighting strength would be a little bit more than that of a real life first world military. However, they happen to live in a universe where being completely superhuman is a fairly common state of being, and hence they tend to come across as this trope when compared to the Adeptus Astartes or pretty much all of the armies they go up against. However, this ironically makes them arguably the most awesome army of the lot.
- Power Fist: Sometimes wielded by higher-ranking officers. Because everything else is usually faster than and stronger than Guardsmen, this at least lets them stand toe to toe with some of their scarier foes, although it's nowhere near as effective as in the hands of other, stronger races.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Any Guard regiment raised from a world with a particularly strong military tradition will often be composed of a culture of them, but the Cadians are perhaps the standout example. Cadia's birth rate and recruitment rate are synonymous, every Cadian learns to field-strip a lasgun before they learn to read, and even civilian fashions use military camouflage. Every settlement on their planet is fortified to make street-to-street combat favor the defenders, and even those citizens who work their "civil sector" jobs (such as their local industries) are technically reservists. Such is their reputation than many planetary defense forces of other worlds model themselves on the Cadians' structure and equipment patterns, which means that a lot of other Guard regiments resemble them. However, the trope is ZigZagged as Cadians are not glory-hungry Blood Knights but rather disciplined, coordinated soldiers.
- Put on a Bus: The Cadians and Catachans have plastic kits available, but the Mordians, Valhallans and Tallarns are stuck with metal models that haven't been updated since 2nd Edition, while regiments like the Praetorians are no longer available at all.
- Red Shirt Army: The Imperial Guard on a bad day...and the bad days outnumber the good on any given week.
- Regiment of Hats: And in many cases also a Fantasy Counterpart Culture. Just about every army in human history is represented somewhere:
- The Cadian Shock Troops have the worst posting in the Imperium, right outside the Eye of Terror, and can consequently field-strip a lasgun before they learn to walk. They're considered the Imperial Guard's best soldiers and are capable of devastating frontal assaults. It could be a nod towards Canada's role in the World Wars, especially their Shock Troops. Their uniform is heavily-inspired by Starship Troopers, another science-fiction work.
- The Catachan Jungle Fighters are both sides of the Vietnam War, and a good bit of Rambo.
- Valhallan Ice Warriors are grim and determined ice worlders using artillery bombardment and human wave attacks right out of the Great Patriotic War.
- The Vostroyan Firstborn meanwhile are based on the Imperial Russian Army, and pass down Ancestral Weapons worth more than the Guardsman wielding it.
- The Atillan Rough Riders are mounted forces either Hunnic or Mongol in flavor.
- The pious and wily Tallarn Desert Raiders are heavily reminiscent of early 20th century Arab forces.
- The Praetorians wear pith helmets and red coats and fight in firing lines with wheeled field pieces.
- The gas mask and trenchcoat-wearing mechanized soldiers of the Armageddon Steel Legion are straight from the World War II-era German army...
- ...While the gas mask and trenchcoat-wearing siege specialists in the Death Korps of Krieg are straight from the World War I-era western front, with french, british and german equipment/background.
- The elite Elysian Drop Troopers take notes from just about every paratrooper and air-cav force in military history. However, their lasgun shares some similarities with the FAMAS, and their previous failed campaigns despite their bravery could be seen as a nod toward the French paratroopers.
- The Mordian Iron Guard proudly wear dress uniforms into battle and fight in close order drill, evocative of the Prussian military.
- The Tanith First-And-Only are scouts and woodsmen beyond compare.
- The Savlar Chem Dogs are an Army of Thieves and Whores known for its drug use and looting.
- The latest addition to the litany of goofy historical themed regiments is the Arkhan Confederates, a grey-clad, mechanized cavalry-loving bunch with absurd biblical names who are basically the Confederate States of America by way of the Inglessa and Louisiana Militias from ∀ Gundam.
- Another would be the Scintillan Fusiliers, comprised primarily of local elites and are essentially a futuristic version of 17th-18th Century Italy, particularly Venice, at its most decadent.
- All of these design elements make the Guard popular with fans of realistic tactical wargames, who tend to see this invoked by designing and painting their armies to look even more like certain historical forces.
- Refuge in Audacity: This is in part why the Mordian Iron Guard are fond of ceremony and dress uniforms: to distract enemies from the fact that they are definitely Not So Harmless.
- Resignations Not Accepted: Depending on the regiment. Some keep fighting until they are too depleted to be effective, then the survivors muster out permanently. Some actually have a fixed length of enlistment. Some combine the two approaches in periodic reorganisations with a trickle of reinforcements between, so a given soldier might be in for two years or twenty. Officers have more of a defined length of service, but talented ones can be called back to the Emperor's service after their retirement.
- Schizo Tech: Particularly pronounced when various regiments meet in the same battlezone - you can see squads with cameoline and cybernetic augmentations fighting alongside primitives mustered from a Feral World fighting with axes and maybe a laspistol, supported by both mechanized cavalry and horses.
- Sergeant Rock: Probably a major factor to Guardsmen actually standing off against their enemies. Until the Sergeant Rock dies, of course.
- Simple Yet Awesome: The Leman Russ is the simplest of the Imperial armoured vehicles, but cost-wise it's a very damn good tank, to say nothing of its versatility. In-universe, Leman Russes can be churned out the fastest, sent to battlefields in large numbers, and are so easy logistically, they can burn anything from wood to corpses for fuel. It's not nearly as fearsome as the Baneblade, but superheavy tanks are only available as part of Apocalypse army lists as of the 5th edition, making the good old Leman Russ the backbone of most battles that the Imperial Guard takes part in.
- The Basilisk is basically a World War II-era artillery piece ramped up to Warhammer standards. It actually dates back to the Great Crusade, but were used by the Space Marine Legions - post-heresy, the Space Marines prefer air support and find little use in a ground-bound artillery piece, but the Basilisk is very well suited to the ponderous advance of Imperial Guard battlelines. No neat tricks, just a monumentally huge cannon on a Chimera chassis. Like the Leman Russ, it is extremely cost effective.
- The bog-standard Guardsman is just a human soldier with green body armour and a rifle. He has none of the fancy technology or exotic abilities of his counterparts in other armies. He's just an ordinary human with some body armour and a lasgun, and looks hopelessly outmatched compared to his exotic, superhuman opponents. However, Guardsmen still pose a credible threat for the same reason that medieval archers used to pose a threat to armoured knights: they can pour hundreds of shots at a target and nearly all of them will just harmlessly miss or ping off, but they only have to get one or two lucky shots to bring their opponent down, and they don't stop shooting until they get lucky.
- Sins of Our Fathers: The Death Korps of Krieg are the product of a Martyrdom Culture that does the self-inflicted version of this, as each Guardman's ultimate goal is to perish in combat to atone for their ancestors' sin of rebelling from the Imperium (over five hundred years ago!).
- The Spartan Way: Many planets have hellish requirements to make it into their Imperial Guard. For example, it's common for recruits, or "Whiteshields", to start off younger than official enlistment age and be sent alongside PDF and IG forces in actual battles. Survivors are then deemed worthy of going through the requisite Training from Hell and even after officially becoming PDF, usually only the best of them will be deployed outside their homeworld, which is when they can finally be called Imperial Guardsmen.
- Tank Goodness: A huge appeal of the Imperial Guard. Even the standard Leman Russ is a very good tank. Then there are the dozens of variants, and the even bigger super-heavy battle tanks such as the Baneblade, with their "Eleven barrels of hell!"...
- Special mention goes to the Hellhound family of medium tank. While they lack the sheer brutal power of the Baneblade or even the workhorse Leman Russ tank, they win Rule of Cool superiority by being one enormous flamethrower. For those generals not afraid to get their hands truly filthy, the Imperium manufactures variants that spew poison gas or toxic waste.
- Took a Level in Badass: Up through early 3rd Edition, the Imperial Guard was portrayed as using tactics from 1914, both in the fluff and on the tabletop. But after the Gaunt's Ghosts novels came out, the Guard started getting more competent - successive codices introduced the Orders system to buff infantry, even more Tank Goodness, and air support, so the Guard became not just a credible force, but downright dangerous. Not that the Guardsmen themselves needed bigger Balls of Steel.
- Trading Bars for Stripes: Penal Legions, which are often supplied with Explosive Leashes and Frenzon to keep them "motivated." In the unlikely case they survive a campaign, their crimes are forgiven. In the much more probable case of hideous, hideous death, their crimes are forgiven. The most infamous of these are the Last Chancers.
- Tyke Bomb: Played straight by numerous planets with a particularly strong militaristic culture and/or particularly large amounts of required manpower for their planet to tithe to the Imperium, such as Cadia or Krieg. Subverted Trope by Catachan Jungle Fighters, who aren't so much formally trained from birth as they are forced to survive on a Death World.
- Unfriendly Fire: Catachans dislike Commissars, for obvious reasons, so they used to have a special rule where any attached political officers had a one in six chance of suffering an "unfortunate accident" before the battle - the "Oops, Sorry Sir!" rule.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Occasional Catachan Jungle Fighter "dress". Somehow, they keep the Flak Armor save.
- We Have Reserves: That number in... well, not even the Imperial Guard knows how many Guardsman are in it, but it hasn't run out yet despite the best efforts of certain commanders. This mindset is especially prevalent in two particular Guard regiments:
- The Death Korps of Krieg's homeworld went through a rebellion in which the loyalists bathed the planet in nuclear fire, so that even today the surface is an irradiated wasteland. To atone for this near-treason, the Korps willingly throw themselves into the most hellish of sieges, and their commanders will expend them like ammunition in human wave attacks. Upon graduating from boot camp soldiers take up numeric designations to ease the tallying of their deaths, and their culture of self-sacrifice is such that Commissars don't have to maintain discipline or morale, but keep the Korps from wasting their lives when a long-term strategy doesn't require it. Their motto is "In life, war. In death, peace. In life, shame. In death, atonement."
- The Valhallan Ice Warriors come from a planet turned into an icy wasteland after a comet knocked them out of orbit and forced its inhabitants underground... then Orks invaded. They refused to give up and eventually pushed the Orks out. Based on the Red Army at its most infamous in World War II, their regiments are famed for considering a temperature which turns your breath into vapor to be brisk, stoic and resolute in holding ground such that they won't be routed and require annihilation to be displaced, and attack in large waves of infantry after heavy artillery bombardment of enemy positions.
- You Conquer It, You Settle It: Imperial Guardsmen rarely have the opportunity to return to their homeworlds, but since troops without anything to gain tend to fight ineffectively, the Imperium has a practice of granting territory on conquered worlds to the Guardsmen who survived fighting to take them. This can create new noble families in time, or found settlements who regard the founding soldiers as ancestor-saints.
- In a lesser case, most liberated planets become home to a series of bars with names like the "105th," filled with middle-aged, scarred men with blank stares. Robbers or street gangs who venture into said bars can consider themselves lucky for getting out with all limbs attached.
- Badass Longcoat: Commissars typically wear a large black greatcoat as part of their uniform. Regiments from ice worlds such as Valhalla usually are issued them as well, though of course their dress will depend on the local climate.
- Bad Boss: Commissars are outright trained to be this when necessary, using fear of their power and the threat of execution as a blunt tool to force morale.
- Bling of War: Commissar uniforms can get very flashy, especially those of Lord Commissars or Commissar-Generals, making them look like a weird cross between an SS officer and a commanding officer from the Napoleonic Wars.
- Character Exaggeration: Commissars often get portrayed as being sociopathic, ruthless nutcases who use summary execution as their answer to everything, even for minor offenses like chewing gum in formation. While there are certainly individuals like this, Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM) notes that Commissars are supposed to lead by example (using fear to keep troops in line should be distant Plan B) and summary executions should only be a last resort to maintain order during a crisis. Those who didn't get the memo tend to not last very long with the units they're assigned to...
- Commissar Cap: The Trope Namer, obviously. Commissars wear oversized peaked caps with prominent skull imagery, partly to distinguish them from others on the battlefield and partly to get it across that they are meant to be feared and respected. Orks like to collect them as trophies almost as much as they do Space Marine helmets.
- Hand Cannon: Commissars typically wield bolt pistols (the standard sidearm of the Space Marines), chambered to shoot a smaller caliber bolt round.
- The Political Officer: Commissars are each a product of the Schola Progenium, where they are indoctrinated to hold the Imperial Creed above life itself and given an iron will to see the Imperium triumphant. Their role is to ensure that the Imperial forces in-theater have the will to get the job done, no matter how daunting the odds are, and are granted full authority over life and death to see that will enforced.
- Propaganda Machine: The Commissariat's role of ensuring the Imperial Guard have the will to get the job done extends beyond the common image of line Commissars shooting deserters or Commissar Lords sitting in on planning sessions to ensure officers are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. They also do such things as publish information to be read to the troops educating them on the importance of the current campaign, and cutting off the rumor mill by relating news from different parts of the front. Said information and news tends to put the most optimistic spin on everything they can to keep the troop's spirits up. Even if major sections of those reports are fabrications, a few sermons from the preachers about the blessed mind being too small for doubt is enough to convince.
- Putting on the Reich: Commissars' black uniforms, greatcoats and peaked caps are very reminiscent of SS uniforms. This is both to make them stand out from the Guardsmen they fight alongside and to be seen as a symbol of authority and power. It also has an unfortunate side effect of making them targets of enemies who want their caps as trophies.
- Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: The Imperium is smart enough to keep Commissars around specifically to prevent cowardice or desertions. If a squad fails a Morale check, a nearby Commissar can... *ahem* step in and take personal command of the squad away. Should the second (boosted) Morale check also fail, the squad will frag said Commissar and get the hell out of dodge.
- Sword of Damocles: Commissars act as human ones. The fact that they have authority to execute virtually anyone if they judge their cravenness, incompetence, or other vice that would negatively impact the Imperial war effort is used to motivate those around them to not let themselves been seen as slipping in their duty.
- You Have Failed Me: An in-game rule with Commissars. Units that fail a leadership test will have the Commissar execute a random guardsman depending on a dice roll (3+, the Imperial Guard player picks, on a 1 or a 2, the enemy player picks, fun when the enemy selects your flamthrower toting soldier when he's about to throw his Orks at your unite!) so they automatically pass the test. Naturally, a unit of Guardsmen with a Commissar breathing down their necks will have a boosted Leadership rating. In earlier rules, if the Commissar-led squad somehow failed another leadership test, the squad is removed from the game as the Guardsmen frag the Commissar and leg it.
Famous Soldiers and Leaders.
Even amidst the teeming, numberless tide of the Imperial Guard, some individuals stand out above all others.
Lord Castellan Ursakar E. Creed and Colour Sergeant Jarran Kell
What do I ask of my officers? Merely that they do their duty with fire in their bellies and a prayer on their lips.
A mysterious orphan found in the ruins of Kasr Gallan, Ursakar Creed was adopted by the 8th Cadian Regiment and quickly joined the Whiteshields. His brilliant grasp of tactics and natural leadership abilities saw him rise through the ranks to become Cadia's greatest general, the garrulous Jarran Kell always at his side. In the dark days at the close of the 41st Millennium, Lord Castellan Creed leads the defense of Cadia against the 13th Black Crusade, where he has kept the forces of Chaos from claiming a complete victory over the former fortress-world.
- A Father to His Men: In addition to being a respected strategist that frequently led from the front, Creed was reputed to know when to turn a blind eye in unofficial matters.
- Ambiguously Manly Gay: It's never stated outright, but it's sometimes hinted that the two of them are lovers. If true, it isn't detracting from their masculinity.
- Expy: Creed's model has a boxy face and profile, a cigar in his hand, and a scowl on his face, making him look rather like Winston Churchill.
- Foreshadowing: When he was found by those soldiers, the child Creed was clutching a pistol in one hand and a copy of De Gloria Macharius, a book about the Imperium's greatest general, in the other.
- Frontline General: Current leader of all Cadian forces, Creed nonetheless still often leads from the front.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: If they are not actually in a gay relationship, they are at least men who have always stood together in their military service since they first met in the Whiteshields.
- Meaningful Name: Ursakar, anyone?
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Creed is quiet and stoic while Kell is talkative and personally ensures Creed's orders reach his troops around him by yelling them out and drowning out the din of the battlefield.
- Rugged Scar: Creed has a long scar going through his forehead and eye.
- Sergeant Rock: Kell is gregarious and never fails to bring order out of the chaos of battle to the Cadian troops around him by relating Creed's commands to them despite how noisy things usually are.
- The Strategist: Creed's had a number of abilities such as Master Strategist or Tactical Genius that let him do surprising things with his forces. Fans have exaggerated this to make Creed a Mary Tzu capable of hiding super-heavy battle tanks behind lightposts or titans in swimming pools.
Knight Commander Pask
Target sighted! Red Corsairs Predator left of the bunker. See the repair seam on the turret? Steady. Fire! Good shot. Driver, AT mines, steer left now. Gunner! Enemy infantry in crater, eleven o'clock. High explosive, fire! Sponson gunners keep an eye out, there's plenty more where they came from...
— Internal comm log, "Hand of Steel," during Operation Retort (second assault on Fort Lycoss)
Cadia's most renowned tank ace.
- Attack Its Weakpoint:
- Pask's first demonstration of being good at finding these was when a Ork Deff Rolla crunched the turret of the tank he was in and pulped his commander. Pask took command and managed to get the tank's main gun Lascannon aimed at a poorly-welded armour joint on the Deff Rolla, causing the vehicle to flip over from its engines exploding after impact.
- He pulled off an even more impressive feat by shooting a shell from his tank to strike a Chaos Titan's plasma reactor core, causing it to melt down.
- Boring, but Practical: Despite his accomplishments leading him to be eligible for command of the massive Baneblade tanks after his first Leman Russ tank was rendered unsalvageable from combat with Eldar Fire Prisms, he had the Leman Russ replaced with another and continues to utilize all variants of the Leman Russ.
- Nerves of Steel: Despite having his turret crushed in a battle, he still managed to get his tank to take out a Deff Rolla and 14 other Ork armoured vehicles.
- Not So Different: To the Tau tank commander known as Longstrike. Both are highly skilled tank aces who won fame by taking out a Titan in a standard-issue tank, and both refuse to move up the chain of command despite their merits already warranting a higher rank.
- Rugged Scar: Even while fighting from in a tank, his face is heavily scarred.
Sergeant Lukas Bastonne
A Cadian sergeant famous for both his loyalty to his men and his perfect memory.
- A Father to His Men: Leads by example, is respected by pretty much everyone above, around and below him, and famously returned for a wounded squad member after having extracted the mission's rescue target of an Imperial Governor. Too bad the trooper turned out to be have been infected by Chaos.
- Blessed with Suck: His Eidetic Memory makes tactics easy for him which paved the way for him to be the most decorated NCO in the Cadian Shock Troopers. It also causes him to remember every Guardsman who's ever died under his command.
- Broken Ace: Outwardly, he is the face of Cadia's dutiful professionalism. Inside, he's rumored to be tormented by the faces of his dead troops that he can never forget in nightmares and has tattooed the names of every one of them on his body in memory.
- Cursed with Awesome: But hey, he's still the most decorated NCO in the Cadian Shock Troopers and remains alive right? The text describing him gives both interpretations.
- Eidetic Memory: Comes in handy for making your tactics adapt to the chaotic battlefield.
- No One Gets Left Behind: Pulled it off, only for that one to have been found infected by Chaos and requiring a Mercy Kill.
- Put on a Bus: Does not appear in the 7th Edition Codex.
- Rugged Scar: Portrayed with a scar going down from his forehead past one of his eyes.
- Self-Made Man: Born in a family of the Cadian nobility which entitled him to join as a commissioned officer, but he instead entered the ranks of the Guard from the bottom as a Guardsman to quickly prove him worthy of the Sergeant rank.
- Sergeant Rock: Described as dutiful to the point of fanatical, and he's definitely very in control in combat, thanks to his Eidetic Memory letting him understand how the battle is going clearly.
- Shaggy Dog Story: Bastonne's famous for going back for a wounded trooper after having completed the main mission of extracting an Imperial Governor. While he returned home to much celebration, the man he went back for turned out to have been infected by Chaos and had to be Mercy Killed on the trip back.
- The Strategist: Due to his Eidetic Memory, he's masterful at making tactics for his squad to pull through.
Colonel 'Iron Hand' Straken
A tough, battle-scarred Catachan Colonel, famous for killing a Miral land shark after it tore off his arm.
- A Father to His Men: Famed for never leaving a downed man behind, with a story being that he literally dragged a wounded trooper with him halfway across a continent without stopping at all. His troops reciprocate the care to and always grab him to be quickly patched up and sent back into the fray when he gets injured himself. He tactically does not throw his regiment into conflicts of pointlessness.
- Colonel Badass: Leads his regiment from the front. Among his numerous battles he's kicked ass through, his nom de guerre comes from the bionic replacement of his right arm after a Miral Land Shark torn it off. He has claimed to have torn the creature's throat out with his own teeth in turn.
- Covered In Scars: He's been injured more than a few times and has such has these in addition to other cybernetic replacements aside from his famous arm.
- Heroic Build: Like every Catachan, he's mostly muscle and sinew.
- Hollywood Cyborg
- Made of Iron: Jokes about his bionics and nickname aside, he's heavily battle-scarred and after a creature that tore off his entire right arm, he just killed it back.
- Man Bites Man: Claims to have used his teeth on the throat of the Land Shark that took off his right arm. Some suspect this was more referring to the Catachan combat knife called "Catachan Fang" he would have had with him.
- No One Gets Left Behind: And he'll drag you back himself if he has to.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: His model is portrayed this way.
Guardsman Sly Marbo
The most lethal fighter and skilled infiltrator to come off the Death World
- Bad Ass: Probably the most unabashed Imperial Guard character example of the trope ever.
- Chest of Medals: Averted. Marbo has been given every medal in the Imperium at least once, and most many times over, but he's so far gone that he's long past caring. He just dumps them in the trunk and moves on.
- Cold Sniper: Famed sniping skills... and doesn't work with anyone else.
- Demolitions Expert: Has a demo charge to use in the tabletop.
- Empty Shell: Those who hang out with Marbo say that he's terrifyingly, horribly dead inside.
- Expy: Of Rambo, with some Solid Snake thrown in for flavour.
- I Work Alone: Not explicitly said by him, but he is not part of any Imperial Guard regiment.
- One-Man Army: The man is not part of any regiment and attacks enemy forces on his own through guerilla tactics.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Part of his obvious inspiration. The constant wars have made him an empty madman who does nothing but kill. It's why he's never been promoted.
- Significant Anagram: Marbo is just an anagram of Rambo.
- Sniper Pistol: His "Ripper Pistol" has stats that, for all intents and purposes, pretty much make it a short-ranged sniper rifle.
- Sword and Gun: His ranged and close-combat weapons are his Ripper Pistol and Envenomed Blade.
- Stealth Expert: No better way to be a One-Man Army with literally no one else with you.
- Universal Poison: The Envenomed part of his Envenomed Blade helps against pretty much any infantry.
Gunnery Sergeant 'Stonetooth' Harker
A Catachan sergeant famous for his strength and courage, big on guts but not too bright.
- BFG: Wields a heavy bolter, a weapon normally taking two men to wield as a team, as his personal weapon. His model doesn't even show him doing Chainsaw-Grip BFG with it - he further impresses the magnitude of his strength upon you by hefting the bolter higher up.
- The Big Guy: Even among Catachans, he's frakkin' huge and strong.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: The only way we can explain how he effortlessly wields a heavy bolter despite being an entirely unaugmented human being. Heck, the superhuman Space Marines struggle to handle the weapon.
- Choke Holds: A pack of Tyranid Raveners once burst out of the ground to attack his squad. He jumped onto the back of the nearest one and crushed its neck with his prodigious biceps.
- I Call It Vera: His heavy bolter is named "Payback".
- Made of Iron
"All Catachans have a reputation for being tough, but Harker is perhaps the hardest of them all. While a rumour claiming he chews glass instead of tobacco might be false, he has certainly been known to place his hands into the fire and ignore it, and easily shrug off blade cuts or gunshot wounds. For Harker, pain and bleeding are concerns for weedier soldiers." — Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition)
- Sergeant Rock: The rock part being especially appropriate.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: His model portrays him as such.
Commissar Sebastian Yarrick
I have followed you too far to fail now, Ghazghkull Thraka. I bear the gift of death. You cannot outrun me. There's no place in this universe where you can hide. I have waited a long time for vengeance. I'm tired but not so tired I cannot kill you. Maybe then I won't see the faces of the dead. Maybe then I'll be able to sleep.
Legendary Commissar-Colonel of Armageddon, who beat back the Ork warlord Ghazghkull Thraka during the Second and Third Wars for Armageddon. He is now attached to a Black Templars crusade hunting Ghazghkull, mainly because the Templars believe he gives them the best chance of actually accomplishing their mission.
- Arch-Nemesis: Of the Ork Warboss Ghazghkull mag Uruk Thraka, and the feeling is mutual. However, Ghazghkull sees Yarrick as a Worthy Opponent because their fights have been so impressive, to the point that he actually had Yarrick released from capture (after an extended session of light torture) because he relished the chance to fight Yarrick again more than the opportunity to kill him. It's a sentiment Yarrick doesn't share.
- Art Evolution: As one of the special characters that has had a longstanding presence on the tabletop throughout the editions, Yarrick has had more than one model. Earlier editions featured him with a sleeker Power Klaw in a Stab the Sky pose with it. This was to accommodate the pewter casting techniques used at the time. Multi-part casting techniques have since given him a much broader kind of pose, as well as updating his Klaw to reflect the Art Evolution the Orks had gone through in the meantime.
- Badass Grandpa: Yarrick led the Imperium to victory during the Second War for Armageddon (which started on the day he would have retired had the War not erupted), retired, then came back again to save the day during the Third War for Armageddon. As of the "present" of the setting he's several hundred years old (possible for "vanilla" humans, but only with serious medical intervention and usually reserved for high ranking officials). His unusually long lifespan has fueled suspicions that he's been...
- Dead All Along: There are a couple of theories, occasionally acknowledged in the fluff itself, that Yarrick isn't exactly what you'd call alive anymore. One is that he's being kept alive by the collective will of the Orks (which is even reflected in his rules on the tabletop). An even more disturbing possibility is that the real Sebastian Yarrick has been dead for centuries and the Yarrick we know is actually a sort of "daemon", spawned from the Warp by the Orks' gestalt psychic energy so that there will always be a Commissar Yarrick for the 'ardest of Orks to have a good scrap with.
- Deadly Gaze: Rumors sprung up among the Orks that Yarrick can kill with a look, which is what led him to get the Bale Eye.
- The Dreaded: Most Orks will actively avoid facing Yarrick in battle. Source material also rather heavily implies that the Orks' regarding him as an unkillable badass has turned him into an unkillable badass. Games Workshop paint jobs of his model always give his skin a greenish tinge, and in the game, if his model is killed against an Ork army, it stands a good chance of getting back up again.
- Eye Beam: Yarrick had his lost left eye replaced with the Bale Eye, a bionic implant which fires a short-range laser blast similar to a laspistol shot.
- Made of Iron: Yarrick has taken an enormous amount of punishment in his career, even near-fatal injuries, but is still going.
- Named After Somebody Famous: His parents named him after the legendary Ecclesiarch Sebastian Thor.
- Power Fist: Actually an Ork Power Klaw, which he took from the Ork that cut off his real arm as a replacement.
Be swift and silent - as the breeze that crosses the dunes without stirring a grain of sand.
Captain of the Tallarn 3rd 'Desert Tigers', a natural leader who may be the same individual who served the legendary Solar Commander Macharius (this section will refer to the original Al'rahem as the one who marched with Macharius and the current Al'rahem as the one used in gameplay for clarity, but is by no means any actual stance on the matter).
- A Father to His Men: His leadership, linguistic skill, charm and intellect make him respected by his troops and any regiments which ally with his.
- Cunning Linguist: The original Al'rahem was so good at linguistics, he quickly learned the language of the N'Go tribe native to Thoth - a people and planet isolated from the Imperium until the Desert Tigers set foot on the planet in the Macharian Crusade - in enough time to aid them in their war against the Chaos-worshiping majority of the planet.
- Expy: While the Tallarn Desert Raiders generally seem like Bedouins in space with IFVs, (the first at least) Al'rahem has a background suspiciously like Lawrence of Arabia himself. He is a charming individual that learns from a desert tribe fighting a losing war, and leads them to turn the tide by having them do Hit-and-Run Tactics against their foes. After their war ends, he returns to his own people (explicitly noted in Al'rahem's background).
- The Captain: Despite being a company commander, he mostly mandates the logistics to subordinates to leave him able to lead his troops personally.
- Hit-and-Run Tactics: As the Tallarn Desert Raiders are apt to do - the original Al'rahem had his troops do this with the N'Go to help them win the war they were losing before, and the current one regularly employs the same style of tactics.
- One-Hit Kill: His Claw of the Desert Tigers is a power sword that inflicts instant death regardless of the enemy's toughness.
- Put on a Bus: No longer available as a playable model in the 7th Edition Imperial Guard Codex.
- Shrug of God: This Al'rahem may be named after the one who served Macharius himself, a descendant of him, or even the same person (if travel through the warp did something to explain this).
- Sword and Gun: The current Al'rahem wields a Plasma Pistol and the Claw of the Desert Tigers power sword.
Commander Kubrik Chenkov
Leader of the Valhallan 18th 'Tundra Wolves', Commander Chenkov is a stubborn, dour, obstinate man who is considered as such even by other Valhallans, and surpasses any other of his homeworld's commanders in terms of sheer ruthlessness and mercilessness. Unimaginative, tyrannical, and violently temperamental, especially in regards to "cowardice", Commander Chenkov drowns his foes under wave after wave of his men, heedless of casualties, resulting in the Tundra Wolves needing to be refounded a dozen times over in the past few decades. Despite it all, he gets results, and so he remains in command.
- Attack! Attack! Attack!: Chenkov's general... "tactic" is "Send in All of Them, shoot anyone who doesn't want to". That being said, he is apparently capable of something resembling subtlety as him doing this upon a fortress once was just a distraction for demolition crews to breach it.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: About the only good thing one can say of Commander Chenkov (aside from "he gets the job done") is that he believes in leading from the front and in person.
- Bad Boss: Commander Chenkov fully believes the maxim of the Imperial Guard being expendable, and hurls men to their death without respite, pity or remorse. His violent temper flares at the slightest sign of disobedience and cowardice, and his men march to their deaths without hesitation because they know he will certainly kill them if they refuse. He routinely orders men to march across minefields to clear them for his tanks or to charge enemy positions to hold valuable targets in place so he can deploy artillery and be assured of getting his targets. It's mentioned that, in addition to his standard practices, he once executed one million troops to use their corpses as a bridge. It is rumored his bolt pistol has killed more cowards than enemies.
- Frontline General: He throws his troops into nigh-suicidal situations... but doesn't shy from being there himself. To "invoke his own brand of motivation", naturally.
- General Ripper: The Imperium considers this a desirable trait in its commanders, to a point, but Commander Chenkov is on the extreme end of the scale, even by their standards.
- Human Resources: In a very basic manner, Chenkov reportedly once had a million of his own troops executed so their bodies could be used as a bridge.
- Karma Houdini: He's an unimaginative, temperamental fool who sends millions of men to their deaths without a flicker, but has received multiple commendations for it, because he tends to win his wars with particular speed in exchange for the massive casualties. Most famously, he brought an end to the year-long Siege of Kotrax by storming a heavily defended citadel without any armoured support or siege weapons, costing ten million Guardsmen their lives in a single action, for which he was awarded the Merit of the High Lords for quickly ending the fight.
- Arguably, the fact that he continues to lead from the frontline, yet survives every encounter, also counts.
- Morton's Fork: The dilemma posed by any soldiers under his command - do I follow the orders for suicidal missions he's going to give me, or get killed by him shooting me for cowardice if I don't?
- Mythology Gag: Commander Chenkov basically references/embodies the bog-standard characterization of Imperial Guard commanders in earlier editions of the game.
- Put on a Bus: Does not appear in the 7e Codex.
- Sword and Gun
- Suicide Mission: He's very much like Zapp Brannigan in that with him in command, every mission is a Suicide Mission.
- Token Evil Teammate: In the 5e codex, every leader-type special character is either A Father to His Men or a Sergeant Rock. Then we have Commander Chenkov...
- Trial by Friendly Fire: A common tactic he uses is ordering troops to engage in close-proximity with enemy forces, ensuring they won't disengage before the artillery fire he orders smashes their locations. How necessary this is when he does it is not clear.
- We Have Reserves: His entire foundation of martial philosophy. He actually has a special rule called "Send In The Next Wave!" which allows him to instantly get a new squad of Whiteshield recruits if the squad he's leading has mostly or completely been wiped out. As long as he can stay alive, he can keep doing this near indefinitely...
- When All You Have Is a Hammer: Commander Chenkov does have other options besides "drown them in human waves". He's just too unimaginative and unsubtle to use anything else.
- When he does do other stuff, the other stuff inevitably relies on the lynchpin "...while I'm trying to drown them in human waves".
- You Have Failed Me: Don't want to entangle yourself with enemy forces so they can't slip away when he calls artillery on their position, or do head-on assaults on fortified fortresses? You're literally dead to him, by his bolt pistol.
- Zerg Rush: 99% of Chenkov's character in a nutshell.
It is not enough that I achieve victory - my enemy must suffer total defeat. It is not enough that I kill - all my foes must die. It is not enough that I succeed - all others must fail!
-– at the conclusion of the Twenty-Third Quadrant Suppression
A ferocious warrior even by the standards of the Attilans, Mogul Kamir took control of his tribe by killing his uncle, the chief, in single combat at age 13. Two years later, he was ruler of twenty tribes by right of conquest, but still he found his lust for conquest unsated. Speaking personally to the King of Khanasan, he was directed to join the Imperial Guard and pursue a lifetime of battle across the galaxy against the fiercest foes. Kamir accepted with joy, and has been happy ever since.
- Automaton Horses: Averted Trope, his steeds kept getting killed by his relentless charges - either by wounds or exhaustion. Good thing he later got a Mechanical Horse.
- Blade on a Stick: Like every Attilan worth his salt, he uses a hunting lance while charging in mounted, which all have a bayonet-mount (yes, bayonet attachments on a lance) to receive specialized tips for different targets, such as anti-armor tips utilizing shaped charges.
- Blood Knight: He joined the Imperial Guard because the combat he was finding on his own planet was getting to be not challenging.
- Child Prodigy: Chieftain of his own tribe at thirteen. Chieftain of twenty tribes by fifteen.
- Colonel Badass: Attilan soldiers fight ritualistic duels to prove themselves worthy of riding with him, so respected is he.
- Covered In Scars
- Dead Guy on Display: he's got plenty of warlords' skulls adorning his hunting lance.
- Expy: United tribes of vaunted equestrian nomads through conquest? He's so totally Genghis Khan.
- Hollywood Cyborg: Has a bionic eye and arm, linked together make his hits on target.
- Mechanical Horse: Rides a cybernetic steed presented to him by a grateful Adeptus Mechanicus after saving the manufactorum world of Loxar IV from the Necrons. Before then, he kept running his horses to death with charges and counter-attacks.
- Put on a Bus: Doesn't appear in the 7e Codex.
Da Sergeant Major asked me what my job was an' I said it was to, uh, do what I was told. He said I was a genius and gave me another medal. I likes da Imperial Guard!
An incredibly powerful, tough and loyal Ogryn, responsible for saving the lives of over a hundred different officers. He is shuttled across the Imperium from world to world, regiment to regiment, the most desirable bodyguard a commander or a colonel could have.
- Dumb Muscle: Like all Ogryns, Nork is dumb as a post, but he's a little smarter than most Ogryns in that he can write his name, speak in full sentences, and count on four fingers (with his thumb confusing him).
- Literal-Minded: When a wounded officer he was protecting suggested Nork get a first aid kit from a wrecked Chimera, Nork obligingly dragged the vehicle twenty yards across the road to said officer. Ogryns really don't like getting into cramped transport vehicles.
- Heroic Sacrifice: The name of one of his special rules. Killing Nork in melee triggers a final flurry of attacks, as he refuses to die without first trying to stop the ones trying to hurt his friends.
- Undying Loyalty: The reason why he fights, and how he can pull off his Heroic Sacrifice. Also the name of a special rule of his; if a Commissar executes the commander that Nork is guarding, the berserk Ogryn will immediately kill the Commissar for doing so, who was clearly Too Dumb to Live anyway.
You are all here because you are scum. But you are the Emperor's scum. You have skills that are useful to our Immortal Lord and whether you wish it or no, they will be made use of.
The commander of the Thirteenth Penal Legion, home to the worst criminals and psychopaths otherwise fit only for a firing squad. Schaeffer leads his "Last Chancers" through warzone after warzone, whittling down the assorted scum until the survivors are ready for the suicide mission he recruited them for.
Examples of such suicide missions can be found in The Last Chancers
- Bad Boss: Schaeffer's Harsh Discipline rule ensures that the Last Chancers automatically pass any Leadership tests required. Their lives are forfeit, and they are only stayed from execution because he allows it.
- Cigar Chomper: Schaeffer is rarely seen without a cigar; his model even includes one.
- For Your Own Good: For all his bastardry, Schaeffer earnestly believes that he's doing his men a favor, offering them a "last chance" to redeem themselves before facing judgment by the God-Emperor.
- Implacable Man: Has a reputation for calmly walking through hellish battlefields virtually untouched by any harm, even as people die all around him. For the most part this is in-universe exaggeration that keeps him Shrouded in Myth; he has had numerous grievous injuries across his career, but they are all flawlessly repaired by organic-specializing tech-priests.
- Older than They Look: Thanks to the "repairs" he has received across his career, he has lived more than three times the normal human lifespan and continues to serve as though in his prime.
- Put on a Bus: Schaeffer doesn't appear as a playable model in the 6th edition codex.
- The Stoic: Known for being unflappable, only displaying a quiet disdain for the convicts who serve under him.
- We Can Rebuild Him: Schaeffer's career has cost him his eyes, spine, and left arm. However, thanks to his success record, the Inquisition has arranged to have him healed with cloned replacement body-parts (or parts taken from the condemned in the case of his eyes.)
Lord Commander Solar Macharius
What is the strongest weapon of mankind? The god-machines of the Adeptus Mechanicus? No! The Astartes Legions? No! The tank? The lasgun? The fist? No to all! Courage, and courage alone stands above them all!
Perhaps the greatest commander in the history of the Imperial Guard, Macharius led a crusade that conquered a thousand worlds in only seven years, a feat unmatched since the Great Crusade. Macharius only stopped when his men balked at expanding past the light of the Astronomican, and subsequently died of a jungle fever, so that he never saw his conquests fall into civil war and heresy.
- Achey Scars: Had an Old War Wounds special rule that meant his Weapon Skill and Attacks characteristics would be determined randomly.
- Badass Boast: "Those I cannot crush with words I will crush with the tanks of the Imperial Guard!"
- Bling of War: Heavily stylized, gold-plated armor, including angelic wings on his helmet and a gold-plated bolt pistol. Here's him on a book cover◊ providing clear contrast to the Guardsmen around him.
- Expy: A pretty blatant one of Alexander the Great, complete with weeping after seeing stars that would go unconquered and his post-death Succession Crisis.
- Four-Star Badass: In a setting where it takes the Imperium decades to conquer or retake single planetary systems, it's a testament to Macharius' prowess as a commander that his Crusade conquered a thousand worlds in seven years.
- Posthumous Character: He lived from 356-400 M41, making him hundreds of years dead by the game's "present" time.
- Put on a Bus: As a result of the previous trope, Macharius hasn't appeared as a playable model since the 3rd edition codex.
- The Strategist: Had a Master Strategist rule that let his army always go first.
See also Gaunt's Ghosts
, Ciaphas Cain
, The Last Chancers
, Imperial Guard
, Only War
Also see the Abhuman section on Warhammer 40000 Current Imperial Factions
for information about Ogryns and Ratlings and their uses in the Guard.
A good soldier obeys without question. A good officer commands without doubt.