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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.
General Sturnn, Officer Commanding, Cadian 412th
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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 and deserters. A Guardsman's individual odds aren't good, but if the Imperium has any resource in abundance, it's manpower.

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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.

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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.

A part of the Warhammer 40,000 game since its 1st Edition, the Astra Militarum were initially known as the Imperial Army before later being renamed the Imperial Guard, with the original term being subsequently used for the pre-Heresy era organization. The 2nd Edition of the game saw the introduction of various famous regiments based on real world military forces, with 3rd Edition giving some of these regiments (such as the Catachan Jungle Fighters) their own mini-expansion rules. The 6th Edition of Warhammer 40,000 saw the army renamed again to become the Astra Militarumnote , with the elite Storm Troopers also renamed as the Militarum Tempestus Scions and given their own mini-codex. 7th Edition’s Codex: Imperial Agents saw a number of other Astra Militarum units, such as the Wyrdvane Psykers and the Valkyrie aircraft, spun off into their own sub-factions. The rules for using the Astra Militarum, their most famous regimentsnote  and their sub-factions can be found in Codex: Astra Militarum while the rules for the Death Korps of Krieg and the Elysian Drop Troops can be found in Forge World’s Imperial Armour Index: Forces of the Astra Militarum book alongside rules for a number of additional tanks, super-heavy vehicles and artillery.


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    Tropes in General 

  • Acquired Poison Immunity: The 3rd Edition background material mentions that, when fighting against Tyranids on Koralkal VIII, the veterans of the Catachan XVIII, the Swamprats, covered themselves in xenos ichor so that they would build up an immunity to the toxins used by the extra-galactic aliens.
  • All Crimes Are Equal:
    • According to The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer, virtually every standard violation of regulations is punished by being flogged, shot, or some combination of the above, with death by hanging or starvation mixed in for occasional variety. Most fiction though shows that minor dereliction is rarely enforced quite as harshly as called for.
    • The Penal Legions are made up entirely of convicts sentenced to death, and nearly all of them will have that sentence carried out in combat. The sheer number of offenses considered capital crimes by the Imperium is why murderers, rapists, heretics, liberals, jaywalkers, and people who forget to return library books die in droves alongside each other.
  • Amazon Brigade: While it isn't represented on the tabletop, the background material for the game mentions that there are entire Militarum regiments composed solely of women, particularly those raised on planets that have a matriarchal society. Some older background information mentions that such single-gender regiments are the norm to avoid fraternisation between troopers but other material, particularly that released during 8th Edition, has seen mixed-gender units become more common.
  • Ammunition Backpack: Most patterns of hotshot lasgun are powered by a large and bulky power pack carried on the wielder’s back and give the Scions of the Militarum Tempestus a distinct silhouette compared to their regular line infantry comrades.
  • Ancestral Weapon: The weapons used by the Guardsmen of the Vostroyan Firstborn are lovingly crafted masterworks of the weaponsmith’s art that have been passed down through generations. To represent this, the 8th Edition rules give the Firstborn the "Heirloom Weaponry" Regimental Doctrine that increases the range of Heavy and Rapid Fire weapons.
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • Many planets in the Imperium have suffered raids and invasion at the hand of xenos and heretical forces, sometimes for generations, their populations harbouring a deep animosity those who have plagued their worlds. When Astra Militarum regiments are recruited from such worlds, the Guardsmen take their inherited hatred with them and can prove to be especially effective against such foes. While not always represented in the game rules, some editions have represented this by giving Guardsmen from such regiments bonuses against their ancestral foes.
    • Sometimes an alien invasion will result in an entire generation of children being orphaned in a single incident and inducted into the Schola Progenium together. Once these orphans graduate, they are often formed into a single regiment of Tempestus Scions as such regiments have been found to produce superior results when facing the xenos that slaughtered their parentsnote .
  • Armies Are Evil: ZigZagged. While the majority of the Astra Militarum is made up of regular (if badass) human beings who want to live to see another day there are some regiments, such as the Death Korps of Krieg, that are renowned for their brutal tactics, lack of remorse and disregard for casualties. The trope is played straight with the upper echelons of the Astra Militarum command chain, however, who are infamous for their bloodthirsty and amoral disregard for the lives of their subordinates.
  • 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.
    • As of 8th Edition's changes to armor penetration mechanics, the humble Guardsman's flak vest is an actually useful piece of body armor on the tabletop. In prior editions, if a weapon's AP stat was equal to or lower than a model's armor save, it punched straight through every time no questions asked, which constantly happened to Guardsmen note . Now, if they have an effect at all, it's a reduction in chances to make the save. Being that most armies now lack standard weaponry with values above zero, Guardsmen have gone from almost never getting to even try rolling saves to an actually respectable one-in-three chance of success.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Some of the Imperial Guard's famous vehicles are mighty on paper, but in practice are over-costed or have too many drawbacks to make use of. This is mitigated somewhat in Apocalypse-scale games, where hordes of powerful vehicles tend to dominate. In-universe, the Imperium would love nothing more than to equip as many of its forces with Baneblades as possible, but the immense difficulty of manufacturing, maintaining, and fueling them leads to massive shortages everywhere.
    • The famous Baneblade tank and its ELEVEN BARRELS OF HELL! is a very impressive-looking tank and has impressive stats, but even it lacks the punch it requires to eat up 500 points in a small-scale game. It's slow, is vulnerable in the rear (like all armor), and it's far from invincible: repeated combined tank or heavy weapons fire will do the trick. Failing that, lots of anti-armor weaponry (and everyone packs some form of anti-armor for inevitable Astartes battles). It shines in Apocalypse games along with its even more advanced brethren, but even then often times a Guard player is better off taking a larger number of Leman Russes in squads.
    • The Shadowsword super-heavy tank is a variant of the aforementioned Baneblade, though with some major differences in form and function. It's slow, lacks many of the guns that gives the Baneblade some much needed versatility, it can't fire while on the move, and its main gun can't rotate since it's not mounted in a turret. What makes it awesome? Its main armament is a hideously powerful Volcano Cannon meant to destroy Titans. It can potentially take out a Warlord in a single shot, provided the Titan's shields are down, and it wreaks utter havoc on Reavers and Warhounds, shields or no. Firing this thing on anything less than a Titan results in the target simply ceasing to exist. Outside of killing Titan-class enemies though, it suffers from egregious Crippling Overspecialization, especially for it's points cost.
    • The Deathstrike Launcher, which is more or less a small ICBM mounted on a truck launcher. While devastatingly powerful (its blast zone is an "Instant Death" Radius for nearly everything without Eternal Warrior) and has a massive blast zone, it has several prohibitive drawbacks. Namely there's the real possibility of it missing and wiping out more of your troops than the enemy's, it can only fire once, its minimum range renders it useless on most maps, and it's expensive points-wise. Not to mention that it's lightly-armored and a gigantic "shoot me" sign for the enemy...
  • 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, grievous casualties.
    • Put another way, the Imperial Guard are paradoxically a strong contender for the biggest example of this trope in the entire setting precisely because they aren't. Unlike the other bio-engineered killing machines and technologically-advanced ancient warriors of other factions, Guardsmen are just ordinary men and women handed rifles and flak vests and pitted against superhuman adversaries. And sometimes they'll even win.
  • Badass Boast: Every regimental motto.
  • Badass Longcoat: Trenchcoats are a common part of many regiments' uniforms, such as the Death Korps of Krieg or the Armageddon Steel Legion. Regiments from ice worlds such as Valhalla usually are issued them as well, though of course their dress will depend on the local climate.
  • 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.
  • Badasses Wear Bandanas: Red bandannas are part of the official uniform of the Catachan Jungle Fighter, renowned the Imperium over as some of the toughest and most violent Astra Militarum regiments. The bandanna also ties into the Vietnam War/Rambo visual theme of the regiments.
  • Bad Boss: Many officers, commanders and generals are this, spending their soldiers' lives, munitions and tanks like credits in a casino.
  • Base on Wheels: Appearing in the background material and the Epic scale version of the game, the Leviathan and Capitol Imperialis super-heavy vehicles are massive, tracked fortresses used by the higher echelons of the Astra Militarum as mobile command centres. Protected by thick armour, banks of void shields and powerful weaponry, these huge vehicles allow Militarum generals to oversee a battle from the front lines in relative safety.
  • 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. This is compounded even further by the (frequently-issued) 5th through 8th Edition Order "First Rank, Fire! Second Rank, Fire!" order, turning lasguns into Rapid Fire 2, so 4 shots per model at half-range.
  • BFG: Averted with the Heavy Weapon Teams that were introduced during the 2nd Editions of the game. Whereas most armies in the game have a single trooper carrying a heavy weapon, Astra Militarum Heavy Weapon Teams consist of a pair of Guardsmen carrying a weapon so large that a human is unable to lift it singlehandedly. When they get into a suitable firing position, the weapon is set up with tripods, struts and recoil dampers so that one of the Guardsmen can fire the massive weapon while the other acts as the loader.
  • 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 they not only punch holes through tanks but also suck the crew out of the exit hole. This does however beg the question, why they don't tell the Guardsmen the real disadvantages of their enemies (i.e. the Tau's weakness in close combat and lack of heroism, the Eldar's low numbers and lack of heavy weaponry, the Orks' lack of effective ranged weapons and limited tactics)? That said, it actually does encourage exploiting the one weakness that the 'nids will always have, no matter what adaptations the particular batch being fought has: "Shoot the big ones."
  • Blue Blood: Many planets in the Imperium have a nobility caste, and the scions of these families often end up forming entire regiments together. These "highborn" regiments can generally expect their initial equipment to be much higher quality than what is entrusted to the regiments of more common Guardsmen, and (thanks to family connections) their deployment will generally avoid some of the more mundane skulduggery of military duty, but on the other hand they may be first in line for the assignments that will garner them (and by extension their families) the most glory. The high command aristocracy of any given operation will usually keep a close eye on such regiments, as they are seen as crucibles for candidates they can groom for later command roles.
  • Booby Trap:
    • During 2nd Edition, one of the Veteran Ability upgrades that squads could purchase was Freedom Fighters. This ability caused hits against any enemy models that moved through woods or buildings that the Freedom Fighters were also inside as the enemy triggered the traps the squad had set.
    • The Catachan Jungle Fighters are renowned for their use of lethal booby traps to strengthen their defences, using everything from improvised pits and tripwires to more conventional mines and snares to stall and break up enemy assaults. How this is represented in the game differs by edition with the 3rd Edition Codex: Catachans allowing the player to purchase a number of different traps (such as plasma charges or spring mines) as part of their army list, while the 8th Edition rules represent this with the 'Vicious Traps' Catachan Stratagem that causes enemy troops to take mortal wounds when they charge Catachan troops who are in cover.
  • Boring, but Practical: Lasguns and stubbers are far from the most impressive weapons in the 40K universe, but they're cheap, reliable, and have easy logistics (lasguns can be recharged by any light source, including campfires, and stubbers are just heavily modified firearms). 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 "Ma Deuce" (M2) Machine Gun, still produced and used thirty-eight thousand years into the future.
    • Also reflected in their vehicles. In a universe with hover tanks, spider tanks, cathedral tanks, aircraft that think they're tanks, and tanks that think they're aircraft, the humble guard makes due with WW2 style artillery, mortars, missiles and (implied to be) a modified tractor with a turret on top. Whatever technological edge or grace they lack, the Guard vehicles more than makes up for in raw reliability and sheer firepower.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Flak armour is standard-issue for Imperial Guard infantry, and isn't entirely useless as it serves them well enough against rabble like Chaos cultists, 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 Death Seekers who seek atonement through their deaths and are so augmented that they just barely count as human anymore, which creeps other Imperial Guardsmen out and makes them stay as far away 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 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 clothes, 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. Certain rules can even replenish one's supplies of Whiteshields (conscripts) at the end of a turn if certain conditions are met, incentivizing their treatment as this.
  • The Cavalry: Due to the logistics of mustering Imperial Guard regiments together and readying them to make war, a Guard deployment often ends up this by default, reaching warzones where fighting has been ongoing for a while but always arriving in force. Even Astartes, powerful as they are, sometimes find themselves relieved by the arrival of larger numbers of Guardsmen, if only because it frees them up to move onto the next hotspot while the Guard do the more mundane work of full pacification.
  • Chainsaw Good:
    • Chainswords are a common melee weapon for Sergeants and other mid-ranking officers, as while they rarely get hold of power weapons, they tend to get better gear than the common grunt who has to make do with a bayonet or knife for close combat.
    • The Sentinels fielded by Catachan regiments often mount chainsaws designed to cut through the thick jungle foliage of their jungle home. It isn't long, however, before a Sentinel pilot learns how to use these vicious saws in combat against their foes. The 3rd Edition Codex: Catachan rules represented this with the Chainsaw Warrior special rule that granted the Sentinel an extra Attack in close combat.
  • Character Exaggeration: The people in charge for the Imperial Guard are frequently portrayed in fan works are being either so sociopathic and/or incompetent 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.
  • Clone Army: The Death Korps of Krieg are mostly vat-grown to make up for the high casualty rate and life in a nuclear wasteland. The Mechanicus see this as abominable but the Munitorum tolerates it because of the results.
  • Colonel Badass: More than a few regimental Colonels.
  • Combat Medic:
    • The field medics who accompany Astra Militarum Command Squads are typically Veteran Guardsmen with a degree of medical skill equipped with a medi-pack that, depending on the tech-level of the regiment's homeworld, could be anything from a roll of bandages to a sophisticated auto-diagnostic and treatment kit. In-game these medics have the same combat abilities as every other Veteran in the squad and, depending on the edition, make it more difficult to wound members of the squad and/or heal wounded characters.
    • The Death Korps Quartermaster combines the role of medic with the technical skill required to recover damaged equipment and the spiritual training to administer comfort to the dying. The Quartermaster is also an officer who accompanies his regiment to the front lines and has the combat skills required to survive the hell of trench warfare. In the 8th Edition of the rules, the Quartermaster Revenant has characteristics superior to a Death Watch Veteran and is equipped with a medi-kit that he can use to heal nearby allies.
  • 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.
    • The officers who lead regiments of the Armageddon Steel Legion typically began their carrier leading gangs of thugs in the underhives of the planets factory-hives, where they learned that fighting dirty gets results and, years later, they still use every advantage they can get to defeat their foes. To represent this style of dirty fighting, Steel Legion Warlords in the 8th Edition of the game can take the 'Ex-gang Leader' Warlord trait that grants them an extra Attack and a better chance of wounding their opponents in close combat.
  • Communications Officer: The Imperial Guard has "vox operators" with radio backpacks.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: Many elite options for the Imperial Guard on the tabletop are statistically considered to be not worth the cost of just getting even more basic guardsmen.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Deliberately invoked at the regimental level by the Departmento Munitorum when levying Imperial Guard. Any given Imperial Guard regiment will be trained and equipped for exactly one role, be it foot infantry, mounted infantry, armor, or artillery. The intention being that no regiment can survive long going rogue, and must rely on other regiments 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. Catachan stands out as having one of the naturally worst planets to live on for humans (rivalling even Fenris) that's still flush with life.
  • Death Seeker: Some of the more fanatical regiments fall into this. The Death Korps of Krieg have this as part of their hat.
  • Deflector Shield: Astra Militarum officers are typically equipped with refractor fields, personal force fields that disperse the energy of an attack across the entire surface of the field. In every edition of the game refractor fields have given the wearer a 5+ invulnerable save.
  • Determinator: The individual Guardsman may falter, and even an entire unit will rout... but the Guard as a whole will stand resolute, funneling men and machines and ammunition into the warzone against nearly any imaginable enemy, and will destroy the enemy or die where they stand. In particular is the final defense of Cadia, where the Imperial Guard held on even while the planet itself was breaking apart under Chaos assault.
  • Depending on the Writer:
    • The effectiveness of individual Guardsman varies from author to author even after the Guard receives a Take a Level in Badass treatment. Some depictions show them as being utterly helpless against everything (except for other humans) without huge numbers and heavy support, while others have small squads of Guardsmen holding the line against entire enemy hordes.
    • Not helping the matter is the inconsistency in the strength of lasguns. In some works (such as Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine), almost every creature can soak up a ridiculous amount of lasgun fire without slowing down, while in others (such as the Ciaphas Cain novels), lasguns are shown to be capable of bringing down a fully-armored Astartes within twenty shots.
    • Depending on the novel in question, the Death Korps of Krieg are either characterized as being cold, but personable or nearly automata-like clones.
  • Doom Troops: Some regiments lean in this direction, though the Death Korps of Krieg are one of the most obvious and archetypal examples.
  • Drill Tank:
    • The Hades Breaching Drill, 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 tunnelling armored troop transport,) its melta-cutter drill spells 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 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.
    • Termites, and the super-heavy Mole and Hellbore, are armoured troop transports used by some Astra Militarum regiments that drill through the earth to deliver their cargo into the midst of enemy positions. In addition to the traditional drill, these armoured tunnelling machines use a phase-field generator to speed up their tunnelling. The Termite and Mole originally had models and official rules in early editions of the Epic scale rules system, but were consigned to mention in the background material for the main Warhammer 40,000 game until 2018 when Games Workshop’s Forge World department released models for their Horus Heresy: Age of Darkness game.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Zig Zagged Trope. 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. When the intervening Astartes are credited for saving the day, IG reactions vary heavily between gratitude and relief, sheer awe at the sight of Space Marines, or bitterness about lack of recognition. This of course assumes that Imperial Guard troops or leadership get enough screentime to even seen their reaction.
  • Easy Logistics: The Guard's equipment is meant to invoke this in-universe as much as possible:
    • Lasguns are ubiquitous, simple to manufacture, easy to maintain and can be charged by sunlight, campfires and vehicle power plants.
    • The vast majority of the Guard's vehicle pool derive from only three base chassis: the Chimera, the Leman Russ and the Valkyrie. Thus they share a commonality in components that greatly facilitates logistics and repair. For example a set of tracks for a Chimera will just as easily fit a Manticore, a Basilisk, a Hydra or a Hellhound and will have a very similar mode of installation.
  • 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:
    "The Imperial Guard is an army that appeals to both the ruthless commander who only cares about achieving his objective and nothing for the lives of his men, and those heroic generals who wish to see the normal man, armed with only the humble lasgun prevail against the hordes of bio-engineered aliens and Warp-born monstrosities that would otherwise tear the Imperium asunder."
  • 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: While the command echelons of the Astra Militarum are more famous for their uncaring and ruthless attitude towards the troops under their command, many of the most successful commanders have a far closer relationship with their men. Such commanders will often share the hardships of their Guardsmen and gain great respect. The 8th Edition Master of Command Warlord trait represents this with its background text mentioning that the Warlord is able to get the best out of his troops due to his personal knowledge of their abilities and personalities. This is represented in game by allowing the Warlord to issue more Commanders than other Warlords.
  • Flanderization: The IG is often portrayed as a Red Shirt Army who only ever wins battles via massive casualties and by being egged on by psychopathic commissars. The reality is a bit more complicated. While it's true that there are plenty of commanders such as Chenkov, there are also more sympathetic ones such as Cain and Gaunt, and any number in between. Naturally, the troops under their command run the gamut from Red Shirt to Badass Normal, and many are perfectly capable of holding their own against the galaxy's horrors. It really depends upon the unit in question.
  • Follow the Leader: invoked 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 marksman'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.
    • Lascannon — Lasgun-tech scaled up to BFG levels. Its capacitors take time to build up the energy needed for a discharge, combined with the time to cool the mechanism between shots, so its rate of fire is fairly low, and all that size means it's rarely completely man-portable (for normal humans at any rate), being restricted to gun carriages and mounting on vehicles. However, it maintains its power over long range and has substantial armour-penetrating qualities, making it an effective anti-material gun. Leman Russ tanks configured for armour-superiority roles often mount them in hull-mounted hardpoints to supplement their main cannon and suppress flanking armour. Bigger tanks like the Bane-chassis vehicles may have them mounted on sponsons, in single or twin variants, to pick off flanking tanks.
    • 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.
  • Frontline General: Catachan Officers prefer to share the hardships of warfare with those under their command and take great pride in personally leading their men into battle, throwing themselves at the enemy without hesitation. The 8th Edition rules represent this with the unique Catachan Warlord Trait, 'Lead From the Front', which doubles the range that they can engage the enemy in close combat and gives the officer bonuses when fighting aggressively.
  • 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 Vendetta Gunship, an up-gunned variant that trades out its lasers and missiles for the massive firepower of three twin-linked lascannons while still retaining its dropship capabilities.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: According to the fluff and art female troopers are everwhere, mostly in gender segregated regiments but mixed gender regiments are fairly common too. If you were only to read the novels you would probably be surprised mixed gender units aren't considered the norm. In the actual models there are no women whatsoever. What makes it especially odd is that the Cadians, who represent the bulk of the models in print, explicitly include every man and woman on the planet.
  • 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.
  • Had To Be Sharp: Anyone in the Imperial Guard who comes from a Death World, with the Catachan Jungle Fighters as the stand-out example. The Death Korps of Krieg however, are not an example as they are simply trained militarily straight from birth (though a certain sharpness will be necessary to survive said training...).
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: Official Imperial doctrine states that Humanity Is Superior and that those loyal to the Emperor will always prevail. Naturally, the reality is much more bleak, but belief in this propaganda is enforced amongst all Imperial forces to ensure that there is some chance of success.
  • 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.
  • Hero of Another Story: Whenever the Space Marines arrive in time to save the day, and we don't get to see much of the Imperial Guard holding the line, there's probably more than a few tales of sacrifice and bravery in there that no-one will ever hear about.
  • 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, 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 they 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.
    • This is also the Cadians' hat, with their regiments' focusing on coordination and tactical versatility along with the sheer ability and discipline Cadians are generally known for and raising a wide variety of different types of regiments compared to other planets' Guard units, like the primarily-mechanized Armageddon Steel Legion or the sneaky, close-combat survivalist infantry of the Catachan Jungle Fighters. Formerly, their signature tactic was a classically-unsubtle massive frontal assault behind an artillery barrage in a very World War I manner (matching the stereotypical Imperial Guard sense of strategy perfectly), but this changed later (though don't think they aren't still capable of it, because their 100% recruitment rate means they absolutely are).
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: While the lasgun is the preferred service weapon, the Guard maintains heavy use of autoguns, heavy stubbers, shotguns and other firearms. In fact, good old artillery pieces are more widely used than heavy energetic weapons.
  • 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 ancestors' 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.
  • Mega City: Hive Worlds are common sources of Imperial Guard regiments, in part because their large populations tend to result in large numbers of regiments, and because many of these Hive Cities are major industrial centers such regiments tend to require less initial equipment provided from elsewhere by the Departmento Munitorium.
    • Not to mention that many Hive Worlds are simply too large and sprawling to police effectively, so gangs are common deep down in the Underhives. Criminals and gang members can be made into decent soldiers, as they usually know how to handle a gun and aren't averse to getting their hands dirty (or bloody). Of course, turning the rough-and-ready hive-scum into disciplined soldiers does take some training, but that's nothing a Drill Sergeant Nasty (of whom the Guard has many) can't beat into them.
  • 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.
    • Catachans tend to be extremely self-disciplined (surviving to adulthood on their Death World of a homeworld demands it) but that discipline rarely resembles the kind of discipline other worlds would recognize as military, since Catachans tend to interact with an almost casual and cavalier ease of manner.
  • Mighty Glacier: The mainstay of Astra Militarum tank companies, Leman Russ battle tanks are described as slow and lumbering but powerful and durable. How the games rules represent this changes with the edition with the 7th Edition making it a Heavy Vehicle, allowing it to fire at full effect when moving but reducing its top speed. The 8th Edition rules on the other hand give the Leman Russ higher Toughness and Wounds characteristics than any other, non-Titanic, Astra Militarum vehicle and allows it to fire its main gun multiple times at full effect if it moves under half its, already reduced, movement distance.
  • 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, and that it can transport 40 infantrymen within. Horde of Orks charging the lines? What horde of Orks?
  • Muscles Are Meaningful: The absurdly-ripped physiques of the Catachan Jungle Fighters aren't just for show. To represent their above-average strength owing to being Heavy Worlders, all their models have S4 compared to baseline S3 in melee (provided that they have the 'Brutal Strength' Regimental Doctrine).
  • 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.
  • 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 a single Imperial Guard Regiment'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.
  • Pit Trap: The 3rd Edition background material for the Catachan XXIV regiment, known as the Waiting Death, mentions that they make extensive use of Booby Traps to fight the Emperor's foes, with their most famous engagement involving them turning the entirety of a mile-deep gorge into one massive pit trap. The trap was so artfully constructed, the regiment managed to send the majority of the Ork horde they were facing plummeting to their deaths in an instant.
  • Planet 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. Naturally, Cadia is basically a futuristic version of World War II Britain, down to being led by a big, charismatic figure who is seldom seen without a cigar. The Cadian Shock Troops may be a nod to the famed and very badass Canadian Shock Troops of both World Wars. Finally, from a stylistic standpoint, they're a nod to practically every gung-ho alien-killing Space Marine stereotype in fiction, say, the Colonial Marines and the Mobile Infantry.
    • 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 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 numerous 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 who wear blue facial markings and march to the sound of bagpipes.
    • 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.
    • The Scintillan Fusiliers are comprised primarily of local elites and are essentially a futuristic version of 17th-18th century Italy, particularly Venice, at its most decadent.
    • With their slightly smug can-do attitudes, expensive gear, elite training and immediately distinctive accents, the Harakoni Warhawks are a stars-and-stripes patch away from being American paratroopers with hellguns.
    • 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.
  • Plunder: Back when the Imperial Guard was the Imperial Army, they did quite a bit of this during the Emperor's Great Crusade across the galaxy. Nowadays there's significantly less planet-conquering going on due to the Imperium committing most of its resources to mere survival. As for individual regiments, the Salvar Chem Dogs in particular are a Penal Legion that's infamous for taking everything that isn't nailed down to fund their drug habits.
  • 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.
  • Power Nullifier: Those Tempestus Primes who serve as guards for the Black Ships of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica are often equipped with special null-emitters that render them all but immune to warp-spawned abilities. The 8th Edition rules represent this with the Cypra Mundi Null-Emitter Relic available to characters from Tempestus Drop Force Specialist Detachments. This relic, introduced in the Imperium Nihilus: Vigilus Defiant campaign book, gives the bearer a high chance of ignoring any psychic power that targets them.
  • Powered Armour: The Armour of Graf Toschenkovnote  is a suit of highly ornate armour fitted with numerous augmetic systems that boost the wearers Toughness and grants the wearer of this relic of the Vostroyan Firstborn greater protection than Astartes Power Armour.
  • 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.
    • Subverted Trope by the Catachan Jungle Fighters. Despite being from one of the most lethal planets in the galaxy and being renowned tough bastards, they do not have a noticeably warrior/militaristic culture. They're probably too busy getting through the day alive to really have a culture, though the fact its people tend to be unfazed, individualistic and proud does come rather close.
    • Zig Zagged with the Death Korps of Krieg, who are more Grim Warrior Race Guys where the warriors have more embraced War Is Hell instead of War Is Glorious and continue their work unto death as it is their penance for their planet's rebellion a thousand years ago.
  • 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.
  • Recursive Ammo:
    • The Manticore Multiple Rocket Launcher has, as its most common armament, a rack of 4 (and only 4) Storm Eagle rockets. A Manticore may only fire one Storm Eagle per turn, and each Storm Eagle breaks into a barrage of 1-3 mini-rockets once the main Storm Eagle reaches the apex of its trajectory. Due to their temperamental nature, Manticores are sometimes distrusted by commanders, but having that kind of potential in firepower makes up for it.
    • The stormshard mortars fitted to Wyvern Suppression Tanks fire shells designed to explode above enemy infantry, showing its victims with countless razor-sharp, aquila-shaped flechettes that scythe through flesh and bone with ease.
  • The Red Baron: The Hammer of the Emperor.
  • Red Shirt Army: The Imperial Guard on a bad day...and the bad days outnumber the good on any given week. The Planetary Defense Forces are a Redshirt Army for the Redshirt Army.
  • 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.
  • Robbing the Dead: Some of the less noble regiments of Astra Militarum will take any opportunity to replenish their supplies from those who fall in battle, whether they are friend or foe. The Savlar Chem-Dogs are particularly known for this and their 3rd Edition Chapter Approved rules included a special rule that stopped them from chasing down fleeing enemies as they scavenged anything from boot laces to ammunition for fallen enemies and squad mates.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: The original plastic Storm Troopers and some of the head options for the Tempestus Scion models wear military berets that, in the official colour scheme, are painted dark red. This is a reference to the maroon berets of the British Parachute Regiment who the Storm Troopers/Scions were loosely based on.
  • 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 body armour and a rifle, little to none of the fancy technology or exotic abilities of his counterparts in other armies, looking 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 while nearly all of them will just harmlessly miss or ping off, 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.
    • The heavy stubber is an extremely unsophisticated weapon compared to the bolters and power swords out there- yet is churned out by the billion on forge worlds due to its simplicity, ease of maintenance, and rate of fire. Yes, even 40 millennia into the future, you still can't do better than the Browning M2.... which was first designed in 1918. Older Is Better indeed.
    • Imperial Guard Tactics tends to boil down to "drown it in gunfire until you win", but nothing is more satisfying than unleashing a volley of barrages from a mass of field artillery or rolling over a hundred dice from nearly every single unit. Indeed this is part of the army's appeal; no fancy tricks up their sleeves, just good ol' brute force and lots of artillery shells.
    • The Lasgun is derided by fans as 'flashlight', but there's a reason it is the mainstay of the Imperial Guard weapons. It's so simple, it can be manufactured everywhere, its power cells can last for quite a bit before having to be recharged, and it can be recharged by simple power port, solar power, or even by burning it in a pinch. Burning the power cell also turns them unstable, allowing it to be used as improvised explosive. Lastly, the base Laser technology also give rise to advanced variants such as Hellgun, Long-Las, Multilaser, Lascannon, all the way up to the Volcano Cannon which can fell a Titan.
  • 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 Vostroyan Firstborn are regiments made up entirely of the firstborn sons of every Vostroyan family. This is in penance for the planet refusing to help out with the Imperium's War effort (as it would have crippled their economy) which almost led to them being declared traitors. Unlike other regiments, Vostroyans can retire back home after their service is over, which results in them passing down their weapons to their firstborn sons, a rarity among Imperial Guard Regiments.
  • Skull for a Head: High ranking officers of the Armageddon Steel Legion will often have their gasmasks fashioned into the form of a skull to intimidate and unnerve their enemies. The most famous such gasmask is the 8th Edition Relic the Skull Mask of Acheron that strikes fear into the hearts of the superstitious Orks.
  • 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.
  • Super Soldier: Though not quite the equals of an Astartes, the Tempestus Scions (or "Stormtroopers") are hand-picked from the most capable guardsmen, subjected to rigorous training and given minor cybernetic enhancements, and equipped with the finest weapons available. They are entrusted with delicate operations such as assaults on heavily fortified positions or infiltrating behind enemy lines, usually deployed by Valkyrie gunships. The Cadians, the Catachans and the Krieg might also qualify.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • The most loyal and dedicated Guardsmen of the Astra Militarum will sometimes call down fire on their own position if it looks like they are going to be overrun. The 8th Edition rules represent this with the 'Fire on My Position' Stratagem that has a 50% chance of causing mortal wounds on an enemy unit close to an Astra Militarum unit when it is destroyed, though the unit must have a vox-caster to do so. It certainly doesn't hurt that being captured by almost everything the Guard goes up against is a Fate Worse than Death, so a quick death by dangerously close artillery is vastly preferable.
    • The Death Korps of Krieg, unsurprisngly, have this mentality ingrained into them. A unit given the 8th Edition 'Duty Unto Death' Order allows all infantry or cavalry slain in a Fight phase to make a last attack before they perish, hopefully invoking this trope.
  • Tank Goodness: A huge appeal of the Imperial Guard. Even the standard Leman Russ is a very good tank, and it (among other, scarier death engines) can be fielded in squads in high-points games. 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!". The multitude of powerful tanks available to the Imperial Guard and the numbers they can be deployed in is what makes them a force to be reckoned with in Apocalypse mode.
    • 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.
  • Target Spotter:
    • The Master of Ordnance is an officer who is often attached to the command section of front line infantry regiments to act as a liaison with the forces’ artillery companies. These officers use various auspex-arrays, and other scanning devices, to relay targeting data to artillery batteries behind the front line to call down supporting barrages with far greater accuracy than would otherwise be possible. The 8th Edition rules represent this by giving the Master of Ordnance a one-off artillery barrage attack (representing the model calling in fire from off table artillery units) and by allowing the player's artillery units to re-roll long range shots when there is a Master of Ordnance nearby.
    • The 8th Edition Stratagem Aerial Spotter represents the aircraft of the Aeronutica Imperialis acting as spotters for the player’s artillery, allowing them to re-roll failed hits.
  • Technicolor Fire: The background section of the 8th Edition codex mentions that the multiple flamer weapons utilized by regiments of Miasman Redcowls spew a fierce green fire due to the volatile and noxious form of promethium the regiments uses.
  • Theme Naming: Many Guard vehicles, especially those based on the Chimera chassis, are named after mythological creatures such as the Valkyrie, the Medusa, the Basilisk and the Hellhound.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Most of the named Imperial Guard armies are sympathetic to some degree, even with their various quirks and oddities. This is with the exception of the Salvar Chem Dogs, an Army of Thieves and Whores who are kept in line with "motivational drugs" and are infamous for their ruthless looting tendencies. There's also the Penal Legions, who are convicted criminals, heretics, and mutants who have to be kept in line with collar-bombs and are usually treated as scum by the other Guardsmen.
  • 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 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 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.
    • In addition, if a Guardsmen unit does rout despite the presence of a Commissar, then the Commissar is removed from play. The idea behind this is the Commissar attempted to shoot one of them to maintain morale, and the Guardsmen shot back.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: While the official uniform of the Catachan Jungle Fighters includes a vest of flak armour, a number of their models have the troopers going into battle shirtless. Despite what the models are wearing however, they all receive the same Save characteristic.
  • War Is Hell: While the trope can make its appearance at times for all the other armies, given that the Imperial Guard are Puny Earthlings that are pushed forward to die in droves against inhuman adversaries by officers and institutions that place humanity over the human being and are the most likely to appear as Shell-Shocked Veterans, the Imperial Guard are probably the most likely to display the trope. To some of their fans, that's even the appeal—why else would anyone want to play as the Death Korps of Krieg?
  • 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.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer...: ... every problem looks like it can be solved by simply throwing more forces at it. Other solutions may be more elegant, but given the diverse and constantly shifting (though vast) resources that Imperial Guard high command has to work with, overwhelming force requires the least change in overall strategy.
    • More granularity, this is one of the motivating factors as to why, despite all the awesome variety of combined arms options the Imperial Guard might employ, there are some staggering-looking misapplications of force... like sending a light infantry regiment to take out a bunch of enemy tanks. The Guard is a vast organization, and for the overall strategic goals to be met all the individual pieces have to be moving toward those goals together. But the chaos of war makes it impossible for the deployment of every asset to be micro-managed, and the ideal force to deal with a particular situation may not be available despite the best efforts to make it so. Yet the local commanders will still be expected to make do with what they have, if only because a failure to push toward their objectives on time will threaten the wider strategy. The generals in charge of a particular salient quickly learn to apply whatever force they are given, even when it is widely inappropriate for the responsibility it has been given.
  • You Kill It, You Bought 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.

    Commissar Tropes 

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"Follow my example, or I will make you one!"

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, also known as the Commissariat, is an organization of political officers that works alongside the Astra Militarum while maintaining its own command structure and bureaucracy. Commissars are recruited from the very best students of the Schola Progenium, and must show absolute faith in the Imperium and a strict dedication to the Imperial Creed. Attached to Militarum regiments, Commissars are expected to lead the warriors of the Imperium from the front, inspiring them to extreme feats of bravery, brutally driving them to fulfil their missions despite the odds, and delivering the ultimate punishment should they fail or show cowardice. As well as their battlefield role, Commissars are expected to fulfil multiple rear-echelon duties including the dissemination of information, maintaining morale, enforcing discipline, and keeping petty politics from hampering the duties of higher-ranking officers. 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. Far more common is for a highly experienced Lord Commissar to take command of an Astra Militarum force for a limited time, such as a single battle of campaign, so that they can use their years of experience to get the best out of those under his command.

To perform these tasks, Commissars are trained to be utterly fearless, and at times utterly ruthless. Commissars are expected to learn the culture and strengths of the regiments they serve alongside, so that they can better inspire and gain the respect of those he must command. They also have authority, however, to use whatever means to restore discipline, including summarily executing anyone, from the lowest grunt to the highest general, who fails in their duties. The threat of such harsh discipline is considered to be one of the best ways to quickly restore order in the heat of battle, but can lead to resentment amongst the common Guardsman.


  • Authority in Name Only: PDF Commissars (in theory) are the second-highest rank in the Commissariat and, on paper, have jurisdiction over one or more planet's Planetary Defense Forces. In practice, most PDFs don't even know that they have a Commissar, as this post is usually relegated to Commissars that have screwed up or are too old for service but can't be kicked out for whatever reason.
  • Badass Longcoat: A Commissar's uniform typically includes a large black greatcoat with red edging and a high collar, although depending on the environment and the particular regiment the commissar is assigned to, this may be modified. In any case, this makes for a very imposing figure on the battlefield.
  • 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. This has the benefit of making a strong impression with Imperial troops and the detriment of making themselves rather noticeable targets...
  • Character Exaggeration:
    • Commissars often get portrayed as being ruthless, sociopathic 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...
    • At the other end of the scale, the fact that the most famous Commissars are characters like Cain and Gaunt, who are generally moral men who protect their soldiers to the last, leads to many fans assuming that all Commissars are like them. Cain and Gaunt are ideal Commissars (despite their faults), but they're also pretty exceptional ones.
  • Commissar Cap: 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.
  • Deadly Graduation: The 6th/7th Edition Codex: Militarum Tempestus notes that one of the final tests that a Commissarial cadet could face before they graduate from the Schola Progenium is to execute their closest friend at the training facility. This test is to ensure that the cadet will not hesitate to execute the troopers he is assigned to watch over as he has already killed someone far more important to him.
  • Fearless Fool: While Commissars are not actually fearless, they are trained to project the image of being so. Showing contempt for the potential danger the enemy poses may serve to reassure and inspire the Guardsmen they are charged with emboldening, so Commissars are given to showing casual disregard for the potential lethality of a situation.
  • Four-Star Badass: Played with. Commissars are not officially in charge of the army, they're there to maintain discipline (also a reason why Ibram Gaunt is distrusted by some of the Tanith he commands, as a 'Colonel-Commissar' is an inherent conflict of interest). In practice, Commissars are expected to have deep tactical insight, as they will judge everyone, even the Lord Solar, and it's not unknown for Commissars to take charge of a regiment and lead an assault.
  • Frontline General: While they're not the actual generals per se, Commissars are expected to lead from the front, to inspire and set an example to others. Hence they can usually be found spearheading an assault with their men.
  • Hand Cannon:
    • Commissars typically wield bolt pistols (the standard sidearm of the Space Marines), scaled down for baseline humans. They use these as their particular method of execution for deserters and cowards.
    • The Astra Militarum relic known as The Emperor's Benediction is a masterwork bolt pistol available to Commissars that is said to possess a particularly bloodthirsty machine spirit that can sense cowardice. In the 8th Edition rules, the weapon has a higher rate of fire than a regular bolt pistol, does twice the damage and, befitting a weapon used to executing officers, ignores the usual restrictions for targeting characters.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: Imperial citizens are raised to believe Humanity Is Superior, that the Imperium can overcome any challenger, and that they will be more than a match for any opponent they face on the battlefield and to suggest otherwise is blasphemy. Unfortunately since this is a setting in which Puny Earthlings is played straight more often than not, the reality is somewhat bleaker than many have been lead to believe. Thus, Commissars are in charge of making sure that the Guardsmen's optimism about their success is enforced, even despite their evidence of their eyes, lest the entire facade collapse and their chances for success collapse with it.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: In theory, the Commissariat is sanctioned to take control of any Imperial Guard or Imperial Navy assets as necessary. In practice, this causes a lot of political headaches between Commissars and high-ranking officers, the latter of whom do not appreciate having their command post taken from them. This also leads to a few awkward (and humorous) moments, such as Ciaphas Cain's (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM) personal aide bossing around generals and admirals with impunity. Despite being the lowest possible rank in the Imperial Guard, being part of a Commissar's staff means that he now outranks his superiors!
  • Large Ham: Commissars tend to be portrayed as shouting constantly in order to convey orders and grandiose morale-boosting speeches to their troops. Justified in that they need to be loud to be heard over the din of combat and part of their job is to inspire confidence (and fear) in their men. Dramatically making boasts about the strength of the Imperium or threatening to execute those who fail the Emperor is all part of the job. Have a listen to the lines of a Commissar Lord from Dawn of War: half of his orders are grandiose declarations.
  • The Neidermeyer: Technically speaking, the Commissariat is not within the Imperial Guard chain of command. Still, few Guard regiments actually appreciate the presence of a political officer, with many outright hating their Commissars. The truth is rather complicated: while Commissars' required duties will hardly make many friends, a lot of them really do deserve the resentment of the troops they are attached to. The rare Commissar who both does his job well and has the utmost respect and admiration from their men is an extremely valuable asset to the Imperial military.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: For a while, the way the rules were worded allowed for a Commissar to execute himself to prevent a nearby unit from falling back. This was changed to limit summary execution to its intended purpose.
  • 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 troops' 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. Orks especially like to home in on Commissars, partly because to them any 'umie that's wearing clothes that makes them stand out must be able to give a good fight and partly because their caps make great trophies.
  • Red Armband of Leadership: Ciaphas Cain, a Commissar himself, notes several times in the eponymous novels starring him that a Commissar's sigil of office is a red sash. The sash is depicted in the cover art for the Ciaphas Cain and Gaunt's Ghosts books, but is generally not seen in the models.
  • Rousing Speech: Commissars are trained to give these, to inspire the Guardsmen they watch over to acts of valor. Those Commissars present alongside an officer generally prefer to let the officer give the rousing speeches instead to help reinforce their authority, though one who is lacking in skill can expect the Commissar to give them a few pointers when the troops are out of earshot.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: The Imperium is smart enough to keep Commissars around specifically to prevent cowardice or desertions. However, a squad that's had enough of whatever situation they're in will sometimes... remove the Commissar from his position and get the hell out of dodge. In-game, a unit that's been taken over by a Commissar after a failed Morale check gets a boost to its Leadership stat, but if it fails another Morale check despite the boost, it's removed from play, representing the soldiers fragging said Commissar and deserting.
  • 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 sufficient to negatively impact the Imperial war effort is used to motivate those around them to not let themselves be seen as slipping in their duty.
  • Too Dumb to Live: As noted by both Ciaphas Cain and Ibram Gaunt, the stereotypical trigger-happy commissar that uses summary execution frequently tends to "die tragically several kilometers from the frontlines." No matter how much authority and intimidation factor a Commissar may have, he is but one man among countless other Guardsmen, and trained soldiers are perfectly capable of silencing a Commissar that's shot one too many of their friends.
  • Weapon for Intimidation: One of the reasons Commissars tend to favor bolt pistols is simply because of how loud and messy their effects are, and when they need to control through fear simply having one at hand goes a long way.
  • Witch Hunt: The Commissariat is tasked with maintaining the discipline, competence, and purity of the Imperium's troops. The last part involves purging anyone who has fallen to the Ruinous Powers (or is suspected to have done so), which makes them the de facto Judge, Jury, and Executioner when there are no Inquisitors, Adeptus Sororitas, or other heresy-purging groups around.
  • You Are in Command Now: Invoked by themselves. When a squad's morale breaks, an Imperial Guard player can choose to have the nearest Commissar execute the ranking officer and rally the squad themselves, taking personal command of that unit.
  • You Have Failed Me:
    • Commissars will often proclaim how the soldiers or commanders they're about to execute have failed the Guard and/or the Emperor, to make it very clear why that trigger is about to be pulled.
    • An in-game rule. Units that fail a leadership test will have the Commissar execute a random Guardsman depending on a dice roll so they automatically pass the test. Naturally, a unit of Guardsmen with a Commissar breathing down their necks will have a boosted Leadership rating.

     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

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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. Joining the regiment's Whiteshield Conscripts, Creed's genius grasp of tactics and his natural leadership abilities saw him rise through the ranks to become Cadia's greatest general, the loyal and strict Colour Sergeant Jarran Kell always at his side. Following the death of the Cadian High Command at Tyrok Fields, Creed was named Commander-in-Chief and Lord Castellan of Cadia, responsible for the defence of the most important fortress-world in the Imperium. Although he was ultimately unsuccessful, and Colour Sergeant Kell lost his life, Creed's courage and tactical brilliance held off the forces of Abaddon's 13th Black Crusade far longer than anyone expected. While Creed himself was not amongst the forces who evacuated from Cadia before the end, the Lord Castellan's defiance managed to turn the fallen world into a rallying cry for the beleaguered Imperium.


  • 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 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.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's not clear what happened to him at the end of Fall of Cadia, except that he was apparently rescued by a figure in metal with a scaled cape. It's possible that he was captured by Trazyn the Infinite for his collection, or possibly rescued by Vulkan.
  • An Arm and a Leg: During the Fall of Cadia, Creed lost his arm to Abaddon when fighting him together with Trazyn, Celestine and Greyfax.
  • Coat Cape: Creed's model takes the imagery of this one step further by putting a braided closure at the neck of his greatcoat.
  • 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.
  • Going Down with the Ship: In Creed's case, it's more like going down with all of Cadia after Abaddon destroyed it...provided Trazyn didn't whisk him off to his museum at the last second.
  • Guns Akimbo: Creed wields a pair of hot-shot laspistols; one is the weapon he was found with as an orphan, while the other is a far more ornate pistol. In those editions where a model could only fire a single weapon a turn he had a special rule that allowed him to shoot both at the same time.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Kell made sure that Creed could escape from a dire situation at the cost of getting cut down by Abaddon the Despoiler.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: If Creed and Kell are not actually in a relationship, they are at least men who have always stood together in their military service since they first met in the Whiteshields.
  • Killed Off for Real: Kell got killed trying to save Creed from Abaddon during the Fall of Cadia.
  • 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, Cadia's Armoured Blade

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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)

Knight Commander Pask is Cadia's most renowned tank ace, with prestigious skill laying waste to countless enemy armoured vehicles; even heretic Titans have fallen to tanks under his command. Pask began his career as a simple gunnery seneschal before rising through the ranks to become the Commander of the 423rd Cadian Armoured Regiment. Rather than accept a more prestigious vehicle, Pask always commands his forces from a Leman Russ Battle Tank that he names the Hand of Steel. Although he wasn't able to fight in defence of his doomed home world, Pask has turned his shame into a cold resolve to destroy Abaddon and his forces.


  • Almighty Janitor: Pask's is a mere Commander but his skill as a tank gunner is so important (and indeed, Pask can destroy Titans with his Leman Russ) he overrides a Colonel in terms of priority when planetary evacuation happens.
  • Attack Its Weak Point:
    • 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 hull 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.
    • Pask's secret as a tank gunner? "Shoot first and don't miss."
  • Combat Pragmatism: Pask's go-to tactic is to engage at maximum range and destroy the enemy before they have a chance to destroy him. He also uses his allied tanks as cover if need be.
  • Don't Think, Feel: Pask's skill at using a Leman Russ is legendary and comes more from instinct than experience. It's Deconstructed when it is noted that Pask makes for a poor commander and trainer because he himself cannot put into words how he's so good, leaving his squadmates behind in terms of efficiency, and is actually only good at piloting his own tank, not coordinating a battle with his squad.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Being able to consistently hit other moving tanks at maximum range is what makes Pask such a legend in the Astra Militarum.
  • It's Going Down: Pask has a habit of getting his Leman Russ destroyed during any military campaign while surviving himself despite low odds.
  • The Leader: Subverted, although he's the leader of his own squadron of elite tank gunners, Pask is noted for not being particularly able as a leader. Having no attachment to his men, Pask doesn't bother training them, neither does he bother give orders since he prefers to focus on his tank only, and occasionally uses other tanks as cover. His squadron follows him nonetheless.
  • My Greatest Failure: Pask wasn't able to make it back to Cadia when Abaddon's 13th Black Crusade came knocking. In the wake of its destruction, he has since turned his grief into righteous anger against the forces of Chaos.
  • Named Weapons: Whatever tank Pask is using will be officially renamed the Hand of Steel.
  • 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

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A Cadian noble who chose the life of a regular Guardsman over becoming a Commissioned Officer, Lukas Bastonne has risen to become a sergeant beloved by his men for his loyalty towards the troops under his command. Possessing a near perfect memory, Bastonne can remember the face of every soldier to die while under his command and he does everything he can to prevent any more from joining the ever-growing list.


Colonel 'Iron Hand' Straken, Catachan's Man of Adamantium

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/straken_9971.png

"I'll show you how to fight the Emperor's enemies like real soldiers."

Colonel Straken began life as a simple Catachan Guardsman and fought his way up through the ranks to become the commander of the Catachan II regiment, known as the 'Green Vipers'. Preferring to fight at the forefront of a battle, Straken has suffered innumerable wounds throughout his career and now sports numerous bionic replacements. Holding his men to his own tough standards, Colonel Straken will put those under his command through training drills considered harsh, even by the standards of the sturdy Catachans, but his men are still fiercely loyal to their commander as he is more than willing to suffer alongside them.


  • 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: One of the reasons he is so beloved by his men is that Straken refuses to abandon wounded soldiers with one story from his background information seeing the Colonel drag a wounded trooper across half a continent to get them back to Imperial lines.
  • Training from Hell: Catachans are renowned for being some of the toughest Guardsmen in the Imperium, yet even they struggle with Straken's training. There have even been instances where the majority of a platoon vomit and pass-out after one of Straken's light jogs.

Guardsman Sly Marbo, the One-Man Army

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A member of the highly elite Catachan veterans known as the Catachan Devils, Sly Marbo is the most lethal fighter and skilled infiltrator to come off the Death World of Catachan. A solitary individual, Marbo prefers to work alone, disappearing silently behind enemy lines to fulfil any mission he is given. Capable of taking on entire strike forces of elite enemy troopers, Marbo has never been known to have failed in his mission and has even felled one of the daemonic Banelord Titans of Khorne. Since the outbreak of the 13th Black Crusade, Sly Marbo is thought to be waging his own private war against the forces of Chaos but the Catachan High Command have sealed all records of his actions.


  • The Bus Came Back: Due to his popularity, despite not appearing in the Codex, Marbo received official downloadable rules for the Gaiden Game Shadow War: Armageddon and the 7th Edition of Warhammer 40,000 in May 2017. He also received an updated model and rules for 8th Edition in December 2017.
  • Captain Morgan Pose: His 2017 model is doing this on a severed Ork head.
  • 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 John 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: Sly Marbo is not part of any regiment and attacks enemy forces on his own through guerilla tactics. So effective is he at such operations, Marbo has even gained the moniker 'The One Man Army'.
  • Put on a Bus: Sly was removed as a playable character for the 6th Edition Codex: Astra Militarum sourcebook.
  • 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 Harker, the Stonetooth Devil

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"Back home, I once fancied me a pair of Catachan Devil boots. Killed me half a dozen of the great ugly critters but never found a single one that wore any!"
'Stonetooth' Harker, to a doubtful Munitorum staffer.

Famous for his incredible strength and courage, the musclebound Sergeant 'Stonetooth' Harker of the Catachan II regiment leads Harker's Hellraisers, a squad of the highly elite Catachan Devil Veteran Squads. What he lacks in intelligence, Harker more than makes up for with simple guts and an almost instinctual talent for violence and warfare.


  • BFG: Harker's Weapon of Choice is a heavy bolter, a weapon that normally takes a team of two men to fire, that he carries as easily as a regular Guardsman wields a lasgun. Harker can even fire the weapon accurately on the move, something that even Astartes struggle with without technological support. This is represented in the 8th Edition rules by Harker's heavy bolter being an Assault Weaponnote  rather than a Heavy Weaponnote .
  • 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".

Commissar Sebastian Yarrick, Hero of Hades Hive

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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.

The legendary Commissar whose defiance and leadership abilities proved crucial to the Imperial defence against the forces of the Ork Warlord Ghazghkull Thraka during the Second and Third Wars for Armageddon, Sebastian Yarrick is a living legend to the Guardsmen of the Astra Militarum. A brilliant strategist, a determined warrior and an inspiring leader, Old Man Yarrick has never let his advancing age stop him from doing his duty and has sworn to never rest until Ghazghkull has been vanquished once and for all, and has hunted the Beast of Armageddon across the galaxy.

Commissar Yarrick is the central character in a series novels, novellas and short stories by David Annandale, many of which have been collected into the book Yarrick: The Omnibus.


  • Arch-Nemesis: Of the Ork Warboss Ghazghkull mag Uruk Thraka, and the feeling is mutual. However, Ghazghkull sees Yarrick as a Worthy Opponent because of how long and how well Yarrick's fought against him, to the point that he actually had Yarrick released from capture (after an extended session of slave labor and 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 Gay: Yarrick: Imperial Creed has Yarrick mention a past relationship with an older male officer.
  • 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, who believe he cannot die (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.
  • Dented Iron: Yarrick has survived more injury than any one man ought to be able to. His Bale Eye and Power Klaw are just the most visible manifestations of this.
  • 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 Beams: After hearing that the Orks assaulting Hades Hive believed he could kill with a glance, Yarrick capitalised on the superstitious nature of the greenskins by having his lost left eye replaced with the Bale Eye. This advanced bionic implant incorporates a high-powered, but short-ranged, laser. In the 8th Edition rules, the laser blast unleashed by the Bale Eye is the equivalent of a half-range laspistol with superior Armour Penetration.
  • Foreshadowing: Yarrick losing his arm was set in motion by the climax of Yarrick: Imperial Creed, when he killed a Tzeentchian daemon which seized his right arm during the struggle. From then on he occasionally felt phantom pains in the arm, especially when fighting Orks, and when he finally confronts the Warboss who will eventually cut off his arm, he feels those pains more sharply than ever and realizes that whatever was about to happen was a fate the daemon had set in motion.
  • Hidden Depths: One story notes that while most people think he's an infallable, fearless badass, those that know him personally says that he cries for the souls lost in the conflict, even if only in private.
  • 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.
  • Nightmare Fuel: At the end of Chains of Golgotha, when Ghazghkull releases Yarrick from captivity, Yarrick describes their last exchange as such.
    [...] there is one memory that, above all, haunts me. By day, it is a goad to action. By night, it murders sleep. It lives with me always, the proof that there could hardly be a more terrible threat to the Imperium than this ork.
    Thraka spoke to me.
    Not in orkish. Not even in Low Gothic.
    In High Gothic.
    "A great fight." [Ghazghkull taps Yarrick with a finger] "My best enemy." [...] "Go to Armageddon. Make ready for the greatest fight."
  • Old Soldier: Yarrick was scheduled to retire at the time the Second War for Armageddon began, and lived to fight in the Third War which began fifty-seven years later. Even with juvenat treatments, Yarrick is ancient.
  • Power Fist: Actually an Ork Power Klaw, which he took from the Ork Warboss that cut off his real arm as a replacement.
  • The Power of Hate: One thing he believes that mortals do better than Space Marines. He holds that while Space Marines are capable of great fury and determination, their lack of fear limits the kind of fight-or-flight madness that can spur a normal human to destroy the terrifying by the Power of Fear.
  • Reassignment Backfire: Herman von Strab intended Yarrick's assignment to Hades Hive as a punishment for going over his head and requesting reinforcements from the Imperium. Unfortunately for the incompetent and traitorous Planetary Governor, rather than dying as he had hoped, Yarrick was put into the perfect position to stall the Ork advance and become the famous Hero of Hades Hive.
  • Retired Badass: Crossed with Mandatory Unretirement. He had been pulled from the Guard and Kicked Upstairs to a sunset posting in a guard recruitment and training office in one of Armageddon's secondary hive cities until he reached his retirement age for political reasons (he had deliberately turned a blind eye to a coup that removed a planetary governor who had been hamstringing his unit's strategy to stop an Ork incursion). Then Ghazghkull showed up and he returned to the front lines and has stayed there ever since.

Captain Al'rahem

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Be swift and silent - as the breeze that crosses the dunes without stirring a grain of sand.

Imperial records show that there have been two captains of the Tallarn 3rd 'Desert Tigers' named Al'rahem. The connection between the two or whether, through the vagaries of Warp travel, they are actually the same person is unknown.

The first Al'rahem commanded the Desert Tigers during the Macharian Crusade. This Al'rahem is most famous for his campaign against the Chaos-worshipping inhabitants of Thoth where he joined with the world’s untainted native tribesmen to launch a hit-and-run crusade against the followers of the Dark Powers.

The second Al'rahem commands the Desert Tigers at the end of the 41st Millennium. A natural leader, the contemporary Al'rahem is well respected, not only by his own men, but also with the Guardsmen of almost every regiment he has fought alongside. A cunning and patient commander, this Al'rahem prefers to thoroughly reconnoitre enemy forces before striking at their weakest point.


  • 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

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Stubborn and dour, even by the standards of his stoic people, Kubrik Chenkov is the commander of the Valhallan 18th 'Tundra Wolves' who has become infamous for his brutal and merciless tactics. While Chenkov prefers to bury his enemies under wave after wave of infantry, caring little for the lives of his men as long as he gets results, Chenkov is not above risking his own life and will usually be found personally leading his men into the killing fields. Due to his ruthless tactics, the Tundra Wolves have been all but wiped out a number of times but a steady stream of conscripts from Valhalla ensure that the regiment is always ready to die for the Imperium.


  • 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.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: When he was first introduced during 2nd Edition, Chenkov was the embodiment of the Valhallans' Determinator nature and their unwillingness to give up no matter the odds. It wasn’t until later editions that he became the General Ripper he is known as today.
  • 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. In exchange, his "Send in the Next Wave!" special rule is now available to all Valhallan colonels as a faction trait.
  • Sword and Gun: He fights with a bolt pistol and power sword.
  • 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.

Mogul Kamir

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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 warlike Attilans, Mogul Kamir became the chief at the age of 13 after slaying his uncle in single combat. Kamir's uncontrollable lust for battle led the young warrior to lead his tribe in the conquest of numerous other tribes until the King of Khanasan, the Imperial Governor of Attila, offered him a position in one of the planet's famous Rough Rider regiments. The prospect of a lifetime of battle against the mightiest foes of the Imperium appealed to Kamir and he quickly accepted, rising to prominence as one of the fiercest cavalry commander within the Astra Militarum.


  • 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.

Colonel Schaeffer

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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.

As the commander of the Thirteenth Penal Legion, the so called "Last Chancers", Colonel Schaeffer leads some of the worst criminals and psychopaths that the Astra Militarum has ever produced. Preferably, the Thirteenth will be thrown into warzone after warzone, whittling them down until the survivors are ready for the suicide mission they were initially recruited for. When time is of the essence however, Schaeffer will hand pick his warriors from the worst scum of the other Penal Legions, keeping them in line with his own fearsome skills and reputation. Over the years Schaeffer has led the Last Chancers on many missions, from the T'au Empire to raiding the Eye of Terror itself and although Schaeffer has always succeeded in his mission, he is usually the only survivor.

A number of the suicide missions undertaken by Colonel Schaeffer and the Last Chancers have been chronicled in the The Last Chancers series by Gav Thorpe.


  • 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.
  • Colonel Badass: He has never failed to complete a mission, ever, even if it costs him his limbs, eyes, or even his spine.
  • 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

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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!

Thought by many to be the greatest commander in the history of the Astra Militarium, Macharius led the forces of the Imperium in the most successful campaign of conquest since the Great Crusade itself. A brilliant but impatient strategist, Macharius respected martial prowess and courage above all other traits and cared little for the fates of the worlds he conquered once his forces moved on. The Macharian Crusade, as his campaign became known, conquered almost a thousand worlds and was only stopped by his followers' fear of what lay in the darkness beyond the edge of the galaxy. Macharius died soon after the conclusion of his Crusade and was declared a Saint by the Ecclesiarchy.

The story of Macharius' conquests can be found in The Macharian Crusade series by William King.


  • 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. This is less useful than it sounds.

Nork Deddog

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The most famous Ogryn in the Imperium, Norg Deddog has gained a reputation as a tough and loyal bodyguard who has saved the lives of over a hundred officers of the Astra Militarum. Considered highly intelligent by Ogryn standards, Nork is still uncomfortable at the more formal events he is required to attend while carrying out his duties and he feels great relief when he is able to return to the battlefield. Nork is incredibly single-minded in the execution of his duty, ignoring all other concerns in his effort to keep his charge safe, and has become one of the most highly decorated abhumans to serve in the Astra Militarum.


  • 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.
  • Use Your Head: His Thunderous Headbutt special rule. Nork also managed to kill Ork Warboss Uglurk Gitsmasha with a Headbutt so violent, all the Orks surrounding him chose to retreat rather than face Nork.


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.


Alternative Title(s): Astra Militarum

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