Playing EPIC in 28mm.

Friday, 29 November 2013

The performance of various units of the Imperial Guard.

The Vostroyan Officer class is exemplified by the upper echelons of Vostroyan Society which has produced all of their world’s most celebrated General[1]s.   Born into privilege they are, by the acts of their inferiors, insulated from the worst that the attrition of war produces.  Promotion by purchase, widely practiced amongst firstborn regiments, ensures that the upper classes are swiftly elevated to higher command and further away from the front line.

Another one for Admiral Drax...

Junior officers in Vostroyan regiments come largely from the lower middle classes.  In military service, they achieve a status that would be simply unattainable for them in civilian life, especially for those not ‘firstborn’.    NCOs in Vostroyan regiments are not used as sub unit leaders, they are there to enforce discipline.   Beatings are common and expected, with longer serving soldiers are served by their juniors.  Fagging is also common amongst the officer classes in the comfort of barracks, but not on campaign due to their officers billeting closer to their commands whilst under field conditions.
The rank and file of Vostroyan regiments are characterised by an ability to put up with hardships, harsh discipline and fatalism that manifests itself in a form of collective melancholia expressed in folk music.  These men, even those in the firstborn regiments are not well educated; many are barely literate, being drawn from the workers of their homeworld’s manufactum. 
This manifests itself on the battlefield as an army that can seen to have a reluctance to act.  Without strong leadership, in defence or attack, the Vostroyan infantry are reluctant to move without their officers.  These officers must needs lead from the front, which leads to one of the highest junior officer mortality rates in the Guard.   In order to get their platoons to advance, Vostroyan Lieutenants have to lead their men from the front.  Without an officer, Vostroyan formations will halt where they are and dig in.  

A Valhallan Coy with attached Vostroyan Liaison Team
The Valhallan population is generally better educated, with close to universal literacy and their armies draw their enlisted men and commissioned officers from the same population.  In common with the Vostroyans, they are used to hardship, however unlike the Vostroyans, the similar levels of violence originate with the wide spread Commissariat and their field police detachments, rather than the officer corps. 
In the case of any perceived weakness or sedition in a Valhallan formation, there is likely to be a widespread pogrom of the officer class of a regiment or sub unit.  This leads to a fatalism across the entire Valhallan contribution to the Guard, “if the bugs/xenos/heretics don’t get us, the commissariat will” is a common theme. 

There are, however, good men who try hard throughout the Valhallan contribution to the war effort.  But efforts to streamline training mean that basic infantry tactics are not built upon; there are no colleges to better train their leaders; training which in many armies would be delivered by NCOs is delivered by officers in the Valhallan regiments. 
Even more than the Vostroyans, Valhallan formations will rely on weight of numbers to achieve what other units with more limited resources will achieve with more imaginative tactics or alternative weapon systems.
What both of these armies will do is use massed infantry wave attacks; the Valhallan field police will site heavy stubber teams at the rear of attacking units to dissuade men from faltering.  Both armies have knowingly driven attacks across uncleared minefields due not to time constraints affecting the whole campaign, but simply due to a lack of planning.   To the credit of the officers and men conducting these attacks, they are generally pressed on with determination and no small amount of grit.
There are exceptions, of course.  The professionalism of the Kado (Valhallan) 540th is on a par with Cadian levels of military professionalism.  They have been away from the Kado Hive for over a decade and have been restored to readiness on Agripinna in tandem with units from elsewhere, where professional military development and education are blended and the experiences of the regiments being rebuilt together are shared.
All Cadians are familiar with small arms and platoon tactics by the time they finish their secondary education.  They are familiar with company and battalion level tactics by the time they finish their schooling.   This militancy means that once a Cadian has joined the Guard, their training focuses on all arms actions and fine tuning their performance under a variety of conditions.
Where the Cadians excel is in keeping going where others would be rendered ineffective; being drilled since childhood, the Cadian soldier will be able to give a flexible and imaginative response to whatever is thrown at him.  Where another formation might be broken up into many ineffective shattered units, the Cadians will readily re-brigade into ad hoc formations and remain combat effective for much longer.   Cadians will re-brigade in this manner without any impetus from outside, it is an organic response which they undertake without needing command from higher formation.
In the attack, the Cadians will always be ready to exploit an opportunity, their junior officers will keep an eye out to enable them to capitalise on opportunities or take prompt actions to counter emerging threats as they become apparent, without having to wait for approval from higher formation.   Cadian formation commanders will be not be surprised to hear that a subordinate has achieved their objective (or not) and found an opportunity to exploit which requires them to then alter their whole ‘bigger picture’ plan.  It is this institutional flexibility that makes Cadian Shock Troop regiments amongst the best the Empire of Man has to offer.
Cadians are well used to command devolving to the highest available rank present; on campaign it would not be unusual to find sergeants commanding platoons and Lieutenants or Warrant Officers commanding Companies or even Battalions.     The net effect of this flexibility is that Cadian units remain combat effective almost regardless of losses and that a Cadian ad hoc formation can be relied on to not only hold a position, but launch successful counter attacks.
It is for this reason that the Cadian war machine is exported widely throughout the Segmentum Ocularis and beyond; despite the prevalent (cheap in time and resources) modus operandi of half of 72AG’s  units (the Vostryan/Valhallan ‘men led by Grox’s’ model), the other half are schooled in the Cadian way of war.

[1] There are no recorded instances of Vostroyan Army Commanders coming through the ranks or from anywhere other than the Vostroyan nobility.  In rare cases, individuals have risen to become to Regimental Commanders, but have not progressed any higher up the Imperial Guard chain of command.


  1. Very interesting, I love this sort of stuff. I imagine it's quite a lot like the Russian model (as you say) where you have Lieutenants and Captains taking PT and drill lessons because they're the only ones who can be trusted. NCOs just have slightly longer beards than the rank and file.

    Even more interesting is the German model, not used so much today but still engrained in their military culture whereby there are three career streams. Start out as a private and end up as a senior private (even after 20 years); start as a corporal and end as a staff sergeant; or start as a lieutenant and (potentially) finish as a general. No swapping between the streams allowed. Might possibly filter in to a bit of DKoK fluff...

    I particularly like this 'retrospective justification' when we flesh out some detail for the Cadians which might explain why they are the STC for IG around the galaxy.

  2. Slaanesh has infiltrated your Guard unit, mate.