Playing EPIC in 28mm.

Friday 27 November 2015

Creating the Imperial Guard.

So longer term readers will recall my series of posts about the viability of M41 Space Marine Chapters, the whys and wherefores of the inquisition and how the DM supports the IG.  But what of the IG ?

As you read this, please remember that I am generalising, this is an exploration of ideas for the background for the Grimdark, not a real political/military essay, despite the illustrations.   Hopefully it’s food for thought.

Tiawanese conscripts
The fluff is stuffed full (and always has been, which is weirdly consistent for this game) of tales of martial societies presenting regular tithes of fully formed and armed regiments, gangs from underhives conscripted by force and tribes from deathworlds, horse borne warriors from feudal worlds and loads of others in between.  Whole armies of volunteers, holy warriors, conscripts, professional soldiers, militia, farmers, criminals, web designers, redeemed harvest clanners, people who fight because they must, because they can, because they should and because they don’t have any other option.

All of these people represent 10,000 years of human diaspora since the Horus Heresy.   Across over a million worlds, living in every conceivable mode of governance and variation of society, family and culture.  We have examples in the fluff of where stiff upper lip formations jeopardise or harm the Imperial war effort due to their mindset.   The Imperium has had 10,000 years to sort this out, but hasn’t. 

The obvious answer to this seemly solvable conundrum is that the losses involved have always been made up from available resources.  But as world after world is lost and the available resources decrease over time, this will become a problem.  The fluff as is seems to leave the impression that, possibly only a century or so after this tipping point, we are witnessing the point where the Imperium is under such pressure that if it does not embrace critical thought instead of ages old dogma, it will pass the point of continued viability.

But what of the problems with integrating all of those disparate humans into a working military apparatus ?

USMC Drill Instructor giving some handy hints to one of his charges. 
The issues the US military has taking young men from the oil field of Alaksa, farms of Arkansas,  Bible thumping heartlands, Hispanic communities and hard edged east-coast capitalist bastions are, these days, somewhat mitigated by America’s widespread access to common culture through television, education and technology.  Contemporary accounts from recent conflicts do mention these differences, but more as literary colour than any real difficulty[1].

May Day Parade.  Very 'IG' in scale.
Across the vastness of the former Soviet Union, a vast army has well documented troubles due at least in part due to its scale and the relationship between geography and communication technology.  Russia’s paramilitary security forces were widely mobilised for the first Chechnya war – they were noted for having vastly different performance in combat due to units from different locations having vastly different levels of training, professionalism and equipment. 

At what might be the zenith of its power, the end of the 19th and early 20th century, the British Empire managed to meld together armies from across what is now the commonwealth by dint of officering almost all of its units with public school boys from the UK who had been through the same officer training establishments.   Arguably, this was possibly the most important factor in successful imperial wars[2], not necessarily that these officers were any good (although the war office did obviously recognise a need for a certain level of common professionalism), but that they were culturally homogenous and shared understanding of military knowledge and purpose[3].

The British Military has for a long time, stretching back to Napoleonic times[4], a culture of institutionalised off duty alcohol abuse as bonding mechanism, in certain units, being in the right drinking circles has been as important as blood and class ties of previous centuries.   With Operational theatres being ‘dry’, parts of the modern US military wholly embrace chewing tobacco.  The Afghan National Army was often viewed as barely functional when off duty soldiers were smoking marijuana – by western mentoring teams were probably incapacitated to a far greater degree during their last mess function[5].

Armies that commanders expect to function must have self-belief,  for some contemporary armies, this manifests itself as in certain uniform items which in past have designated elite status being worn by a much wider population to encourage espirit de corps .   We (on both sides of the pond) are familiar with a regimental system which embraces tens or even hundreds of years of history – ask most people who have served in the British Army where their Regiment was at Waterloo and most of those in the combat arms can tell you.   Thousands of words have been written about why men fight, ‘for their comrades’ always comes out on top, but the weight of history and expectations of wearing that cap badge is also very strong.

OMON Officer wearing striped jersey copied from the Russian Airborne Forces.

Rolling forwards 30,000 years and that espirit de corps may well manifest itself in units raised from militarily focussed worlds like Mordia, Kreig and Vostroya[6].  Others do not enjoy this historical (military) advantage.

People drawn from worlds where the unit for warriors is the tribe or liege lord’s retinue or warband[7] are going to behave differently; on parades where they are being addressed by a General these cohesive groups of individuals might spend more time eyeing each other up than listening to a keynote speech[8].   Individuals unused to parades like this may just get up and walk off[9].

Zulu.  A few Impis could well satisfy a planetary Governor's obligation
There are many apocryphal tales of individuals from 2nd and 3rd world countries attending 1st world training establishments (including other non-military situations, the Olympics spring to mind for some reason) where persons have to be constantly dissuaded from cooking their own food over open fires or petrol burners in corners of accommodation blocks or other public spaces.  You can tell people where the cookhouse[10] is but if they culturally all cook their own food, then they might just nod and smile and carry on doing what they always have done.  Dropping a pastorialist or hunter gatherer in to a barracks in uniform is only the beginning.  Some of these people will not have worn shoes before and will be required to learn a new language (hey, they got there in a space ship, they'll cope). 

Sierra Leone's West Side Boys.
Some of those who are enlisted for the Emperor’s wars will be from strongly patriarchal, even misogynistic cultures.  Others will represent more enlightened cultures with mixed or wholly female units.  Some will be deeply religious, others less so.  Some will feature units where holding hands is common, some where favourite off duty pass times include cross dressing, some where individual morality is a strong factor, some where catamites are a perk of higher status.  Constant assessment at every stage and finding a suitable army for the unit to join will be what the Departmento Munitorium officials have been doing for thousands of years. 

More Russians. Just different ones.
The incredible diversity of the Imperial Guard and the almost constant risk of internecine combat breaking out, the inadvertent burning down of training establishments by accidental cookery, mass food poisoning through bootleg bushmeat and reheated poultry, mean that the Departmento Muntorium  has had to develop a strategy for ensuring that the tithe is not wasted. 

The first part of the strategy is cadres.  In the same way that colonial powers of the 19th century led their locally raised units with their own officers, so the DM will use cadres from its reliably military sources[11] to train and lead units raised form places with a less martial outlook.   Whether this is a permanent arrangement, with the cadre become the command echelon of the unit, or whether they are ‘only’ there in a mentoring role, is going to be dependent on circumstances.

Legion de Etranger - successfully doing what I'm talking about for about 200 years. 
Second phase cadres will be those IG regiments who have ‘done their bit’.  Possibly settled on a ‘trophy world’, possibly retired to a quiet garrison post – a regiment where the bulk of the personnel are getting towards the top end of fighting age, settled with intention of allowing time for them to raise a new generation (who will grow up in a culture where nearly everyone in authority was a member of the same military unit) who will them provide the next tithe.  This could go for generation after generation, if circumstances allow.  Some of these garrison worlds, by M41, will have been inhabited by retired iggies for possibly thousands of years, its own population subsumed in the population so long ago it’s not even in available records[12].

Much rarer would be the circumstance where a regiment could be reinforced by a fresh intake of recruits from its own homeworld.  Much more common would be breaking up no longer functional regiments as Battle Casualty Replacements for still functional regiments from the same homeworld, or at least one where they have something in common.  The sensationalistic GW fluff loves smashing regiments from disparate origins/different strategies, tactics and technological competence and them either being the worst things ever or superlatively good[13].  The point is that arrangements are in place to preserve experience and that invaluable espirit de corps. 

The second part would be mustering/training/equipping worlds.   The Departmento Muntitorium supports war on a vast scale; the Sabbat Crusades, the “100 Regiments of the Crusade of Fire” and even 72nd Army Group on Devos IV.  All of these require tens or hundreds of regiments.  These would have to be supplied from Forge Worlds to ensure some degree of interoperability of weapons and equipment.    Tithed bodies of men would arrive in whatever state they arrived in and leave, perhaps years later, organised and deployable as an Imperial Guard regiment.  This is not to say that they are all going to look and behave the same, simply that they can function as a part of a larger army. 

Irish OCS
These establishments could also possibly be thousands of years old (maybe not the infrastructure, but it’s place in wider imperial culture and in administrative terms as far as the DM is concerned).  And well set up and practiced at taking a body of men in whatever state they arrive in and taking appropriate action to turn them into a formation which can contribute to the fighting power of a larger army.

A third part is the Schola Progenitum.  I’m guessing if you’ve read this far you have your own ideas and opinions about these.  I think that there probably ought to be one on every planet with a space port.  Some will be modest, some could be huge.  Vast, even.

The fourth facet of the strategy is the Commissariat.  This is why Commissars belong to the DM and not the Imperial Guard – the power of life and death has the net result of furthering the aims of the IG, but is granted on behalf of the DM in order to provide continued assurance that the unit will continue to do what it is supposed to.  The Commissar's purpose as part of the Departmento Munitorium is to take any measure necessary to ensure the functionality of the unit. 

What these training establishments do not have to do is to train people who are already seasoned fighters into a crack infantry (armoured/airborne/artillery/etc) unit.  Of course, if the draftees have no combat training or experience when they arrive, then this is provided.  However, if they are already capable, they may only need conversion training to new weapon systems; the establishments are more properly concerned with the new intake addressing administrative detail like accurate reporting[14] (of manning levels, casualties, numbers of enemies sighted, etc).

A military structure that many of you may recognise as a modern military pattern is also not something strictly necessary for assimilation into the IG or successful campaigning.  I refer you to the Tanith 1st and Only, who appear, despite being the size of ‘a normal IG Regiment’ seem most of the time to have only two commissioned Officers and one NCO and still manages to function.   So there is no requirement for a regularised rank structure.  It is entirely possible that the DM doesn’t give a hoot how big sub units are either – so we needn’t expect a Regiment to be split into three battalions of four rifle companies of equal size[15].

A ~5,000 man IG regiment from a feudal world could include the warbands of over 800 cheiftains of varying size who would constantly re-brigade together along ethnic or tribal lines depending on the current situation.  As long as the overall corpus follows the leadership of their anointed leader, the regiment can still hold a place in one of the IG’s expeditionary armies[16].   This is what the Commissars are really for, ensuring that the mid-level chiefs use their influence to ensure that the commanders intentions are carried out.   Given these circumstances, the on the spot execution of dissenters looks like a viable management tool.   The DM is not short of recruits for the IG, some bits more skilled (useful) can be more carefully handled, those which are used as a blunt tool will tend to be controlled with blunt tools.

Of course the Departmento Munitorium would prefer to accept foundings of Regiments like the Gudrun Rifles, Tanith Frist and Only and DKK.  But more often will take even formed military units and pass them through its training establishment worlds, just to be sure of a good fit into whatever army they are going into.  And to assess the unit’s capability and readiness for deployment.  

This is getting a bit long so I’ll leave you with a couple of things to think about:

·         Staff colleges where those earmarked for greatness are removed from their native culture and schooled in the ways of the DM and the wider Imperial Guard.
·         Some Regiments leave behind their nearest and dearest forever.
·         Some Regiments will have a ‘baggage train’ of families, children and other non-combatants.
·         The institutionalised inflexibility for which the DM is (in)famous.

  • Locally raised Regiments who havn't been through homogenisation. 

I know that none of this new or spectacular, but it does make for some interesting fluff….

[1] And there can be benefits; Native American code talkers, Japanese American units etc are all well documented examples of diversity being a positive asset.
[2] Imperial wars appear mostly to be the imperial power controlling the conquered population or defending its imperial territory from outside aggression – mostly (Hittite, Chinese, Roman, British, French [you could include the ‘Vietnamization’ of that war and the ‘Iraqi/Afghan solution to an Afghan/Iraqi problem] empires all did this) local troops with imperial leadership.
[3] My emphasis (obviously) but purpose – on a wider level as well as understanding the commander’s intentions on the ground, as vital to success.  After all, if you don’t what the objectives are, you will not know when or even if you’ve won.  Or lost.
[4] The same units, same messes, preserve by tradition (which is as we know stronger than regulation or law) that which has gone before.  Including institutionalised alcohol abuse.
[5] Leaving one with the unenviable task of comparing a little after duty social smoking with sustained and relentless alcohol abuse.
[6] And all the others.
[7] Askari, ashiguru, housecarls or whatever else they may be called.
[8] Or, more importantly, an orientation or operational briefing.
[9] If their culture is one where personal fealty to a great warrior who has to prove himself personally to his followers, then the individual is not going to comprehend how ‘important’ the General is, much less being inclined to wait around and listen.
[10] Mess, Galley, cookhouse, refactory, dining room etc.  So many different names for a place to eat.  It’s the same with the ablutions/toilets/head/john/bathroom/etc.  And culturally these all function differently (do you sign for your meal ?  Do you pay for your meal ?). It’s going to be confusing and people won’t automatically know what to do, even if it’s their ‘own’ establishment they are in.
[11] Cadia, Krieg, Mordia, Valhalla, Vostroya, Tallarn, Narmenia, Catachan etc.  One can only hope that the DM examines the candour of the new tithing and sends them the most appropriate mentors.
[12] Agripinna.  Almost certainly
[13] Yawn.
[14] This can be a problem if the individuals who make up the unit are not literate.  Illiterate soldiers required to report into a modern army can be seen as liars or fantasists.  Unreliable reporting and inability to keep records (for things like feeding states and ammunition accounting) make the job of the Departmento Munitorium officials exponentially harder.
[15] And HQ Companies in each Bn and supporting arms and detachments at Regimental level.
[16] It might wear uniform and march in formed bodies of men when the Commissars crack the whip, but may well abandon imposed regular formations and personalise their uniform to a point where it isn’t (uniform), but such an uncivilised regiment ‘going feral’ in contact with the enemy might not be a disaster, it could even be an advantage.  However, in the training establishment, on troop transports transiting the empyrean and sailing through the void, a tight lid needs to be kept on the barbarian hordes in the IG. 

Monday 23 November 2015

FW Knight Cerestus up for grabs.

See here for a chance to win a FW Knight.

I'm linking this because it's supporting the blogging community, supporting the wider community.  And as chances go, it's worth a punt for the price of a couple of pints.

Friday 20 November 2015

Camo Cadians

The camo Cadians (that's what it says on the cardboard KR case) have been posted before.  But they have recently been reinforced, with newly painted comrades arriving from Raven's Nest Painting. Sorry about the slightly dodgy photos, but's winter and hence quite dark in the garage, even in the early afternoon.

The Straken conversion from Catachen to Cadian has been superbly done by Col Gravis.  The hellgun armed bodyguard already has a painted up buddy.

Here, with the FW shotgun vets, is the Cadian-ised Sgt Harker that Col Gravis also customised.  They may not be able to be Grenadiers with him around, but I don't see that as being a problem.

Ten snipers.  Because pinning.

Also present are the two squads of AA missiles, designated by their blue and yellow shoulder pads.

And I put the 42VV Regiment girls out as well.

One of the platoons; there are two platoons of five squads. Additionally, there are three special weapon squads and the heavy weapon squads (one AT, one Fire Support).

There are only two squads from the 24VV Regiment's contribution to the war effort here.  The TGG girls are great, but look like they are seriously flouncing, rather than seriously soldiering.  But when you look this good, who cares ?

In terms of 'progress' this represents a reasonable slice. And pushes little men on 25mm bases over the 1000 mark.  The camo Cadians have four command squads - in points terms this is a CCS, a spare CCS and the two PCSs.  But the plethora of banners could allow me to show various units of 72AG all using the same figures, giving the army a veneer of commonality.

Anyway, I've done a little cogitating about the Astra Militarum, so if you enjoy my expositions into how the Grimdark works, there's another one of these coming up soon.

Friday 6 November 2015

42Bn "Helgedad" VV Regt

2nd (Devos IV) Infantry Division is formed around a nucleus of battalions locally recruited.  The Hulin Rifles, recruited almost exclusively from Drookian expatria and formed around a cadre of Palladian and Mordian officers and NCOs, have already been mentioned.

The 42nd “Helgedad”[1] VV Regt is actually an offshoot of the militia raised in the South Eastern Aglov region of Acer.  Originally a response to the separatist rebels on Benq, the militia was a religiously motivated self-defence force.   Attached to the local policing authorities (sponsored by the local agrarian oligarchs) the various parts of the militias were branded as Special Purpose Mobile Units. 

Paint by Raven's Nest Painting

The Special Purpose Mobile Units were organised into platoons and given public order, area search and basic FIBUA training.  With the realisation of the undeclared war on their planet, they began to take themselves more seriously, upping their recruitment and becoming involved in the campaign to make continental Acre safe for loyalists.  Perhaps because they were drawn in contingents from numerous districts, with differing levels of training, they demonstrated a wide spectrum of capabilities and qualities.

Some were amongst the toughest and most professional loyalist forces whilst others proved abusive or unprofessional (leading to a number of ‘friendly fire’ incidents).  Fortunately the blame for the worst behaviours was able to be posthumously assigned to Col Omon, who was almost certainly not to blame for the vast number of mistakes, crimes and failures attributed to him.

After Operation Tranquility, with XVII Korps, mostly 902 Div, training around the largely commercial town of Peltor sent the Valhallan 540th (Kado) Heavy Infantry to form the Special Purpose Mobile Unit into a proper military unit.

The Valhallans, recently put through a three year Cadian all arms training programme themselves, set to their training task with aplomb. The Valhallans (and their linguistic cousins the Vostroyans, who run 72AG[2]) refer to 42bn as “Vnutrennye Voiska” (interior troops).  The soldiers wear a patch with “VV” surmounted by the Aqilla on their left breast pocket.  This is not visible in the pictures as it is under their body armour.

The soldiers in the pictures are wearing  6B23 body armour with rigid plates on the arms and legs.  Some are wearing the Zsh 1-2 helmet some the Kolpak 1-SB1 helmet, some are wearing a variety of soft headgear harking back to their days as independent Special Purpose Mobile Units.  It would not be unreasonable to assume that these individuals are veterans of the pre-war armed uprisings.  They are armed with the Arakan pattern[3] AN 77 auto rifle and AN 48 auto pistol.  Many of them are carrying demolition charges.   The NCOs are carrying locally manufactured[4] chainswords.

[1] Helgedad is small city, the provincial capital of the Aglov region.
[2] The Commander of 72AG and his Corps Commanders are Vostroyan.
[3] Comptroller Bellormus’ efforts to supply 72AG have resulted in a glut of weaponry, allowing the staff of 72AG to ensure that small arms natures are common to large formations.
[4] Made on Devos IV, quite possibly on Benq before the schism.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Just teasing

These girls have been done by Raven's Nest Painting. They are poncin' about a bit, but that's girls for you.

These girls are from the 43rd Helgedad Light Infantry.  Which is a part of 2nd (Devos IV) Inf Div, XXXVIII Corps.  Recently deployed, 2 Inf Div is well trained and fresh.  Which is all well and good considering that XXXVIII is only fielding half of its front line Divisions.

The banner is a WIP.  But I'm looking forward to these girls arriving soon.

Oh look, a real one !