40K Tactics: Astra Militarum – Stormtroopers
Hello there friends and welcome to my latest addition to the long running Astra Militarum Tactica series! I am proud to finally review this codex’s personal rendition of Stormtroopers, the most elite human soldiers still in the employ of the Imperial Guard.
These skilled marksmen are prepared for any challenge that lies before them and have carved their way through the foes of countless battles, earning a fearsome reputation as some of the Emperor’s finest warriors. Though they are expensive per model for what is still a Strength and Toughness 3 shooter, they nonetheless prove their worth in much the same way as a squad of Veterans and fill the starring role in an Elites slot otherwise bereft of any truly high-tier competitive choices.
Note: As Militarum Tempestus Command Squads and Scions are virtually identical with only a few differences, this can be considered a review for both units. Specific sections will focus on either unit, but the general points raised apply to both Command Squads and Scions.
These Scions and Command Squads of the Militarum Tempestus may seem new with their updated models and rules, but ultimately these are the Stormtroopers or “Karskins” of old – the true Veterans of an Imperial Guard force. They are the most expensive “Guardsmen” in terms of points per model but are also easily the best equipped, coming stock with 4+ armour saves, both frag and krak grenades in addition to their infamous hot shot lasguns. While Strength 3 guns generally don’t get too far against most armies, when they are rapid fire weapons with AP3 they will attract a lot of dislike from Eldar and Space Marines in particular – even despite having a reduced 18″ range in comparison to regular lasguns. As befits their background, Stormtroopers (I will keep referring to them as these whether Games Workshop likes it or not!) are the most well suited to front-line action of all the Guardsmen and Guardswomen options in the codex, having the best armour save available to your regular infantry and the best mix of guns. Their profile is also roughly identical to that of Veterans with Ballistic Skill 4 being the standout stat for what is otherwise a profile fairly typical of humans in Warhammer 40,000. Weapon Skill 3, Strength 3 and Initiative 3 with 1 Attack per model ear-mark them as a unit that doesn’t want to willingly engage in close combat with anything except a vehicle. Similarly, Toughness 3 and Leadership 7 (Leadership 8 on the Sergeant or “Tempestor”) ensure that they are both fragile and more prone to running away than elite units from other armies.
Considering that not only do Stormtroopers pay for a mandatory Sergeant but are at least twice the points per model price of Veterans, that there is absolutely no change in the profile aside from having stock standard 4+ armour saves – a cheap upgrade for Veterans – is rather disappointing. Veterans also get krak grenades cheap, while I cannot in good faith say hot-shot lasguns are a massive improvement over lasguns if only because Strength 3 is still so limiting despite adding AP3 to what is typically an AP- weapon. What serves to diversify Militarum Tempestus from just being expensive Veterans is their special rules; while Move Through Cover isn’t that big of a deal at first glance, having innate Deep Strike capabilities most certainly is. Stormtroopers are thus the only infantry unit in the Astra Militarum codex to have Deep Strike capabilities without employing an aerial or orbital transport such as a Drop Pod or Valkyrie. This allows the unit to deliver multiple special weapons – Stormtroopers can conveniently take two per five-strong unit – via an alpha strike without having to pay for any of the varied Astra Militarum transports, and also provides the safest delivery option for meltaguns. This is also where Move Through Cover is surprisingly useful as it negates Dangerous Terrain tests and thus the only risks of damage from Deep Striking the unit come from less common Interceptor fire and mishaps. When used as a five-strong melta slinging unit though the squad is cheap enough to be considered a “throw-away” option, especially when run in multiples as is allowed by the flexible platoon rules and lack of other competitive choices in the Elites slot.
They also won’t be deterred as much by intervening terrain if they actually manage to survive the ensuing shooting phase from the opponent, moving towards another juicy target with their deadly close ranged shooting. Considering that the Leman Russ Vanquisher is still an iffy option for dealing with AV14 at before it reaches your fragile infantry or vehicle lines, Stormtroopers remain an important choice for dealing with Land Raiders and similarly well protected assault transports. That their Deep Strike and Move Through Cover special rules allow them to deploy anywhere and then remain mobile on the table is a huge asset to have in a Maelstrom of War mission, especially seeing as most Astra Militarum unit options tend to favour a more static approach. This is the real value of Stormtroopers and one of the big reasons that they are worthwhile for most Imperial Guard army lists despite their high cost and seemingly similar role next to the Objective Secured Veterans. The hot-shot lasguns are more of a nice bonus than their real defining feature, while being able to take two special weapons even with a minimalist squad size allows them to be used in a suicidal anti-tank role much like Sternguard Veterans, solo Crisis Suits with dual fusion blasters and so on. They are doubtless the best equipped Guardsmen and Guardswomen in the army list, though their price per model, limited shooting range and inability to address the core fragility of Toughness 3 Infantry does make them more of a specialist choice than anything else.
I wouldn’t just throw Stormtroopers into a list or expect them to form the core of your army (unless you use the supplement, of course) as their expensive transports and squads will mold them into an elite force that just doesn’t really compare to Space Marines for versatility and survivability. That they can exclusively make use of the Taurox Prime also isn’t much of a boon as it is just yet another big points sink to add to what are really rather expensive models despite being Toughness 3 with 4+ armour saves. While some might point to Dire Avengers and say that fragile infantry at that price point still work, there is a big gulf in capabilities between the two units. Avengers not only have access to the best vehicle in the game (the Wave Serpent) for two editions running as a dedicated transport option, but their shooting capabilities are absolutely ridiculous against anything with a Toughness value even despite lacking heavy or special weapons. They do fulfill separate roles but to say Stormtroopers make as effective a “core” of an army as Dire Avengers is patently false, especially as the Astra Militarum has nowhere near the psychic support capabilities of an Eldar force.
Stormtroopers are still good units even despite losing their awesome battle doctrines, but they are expensive for what they do and ultimately perform more of a niche role. There aren’t too many things they can deal with that cannot also be handled by massed lascannons, Wyverns and so on, though they nonetheless have a place because delivering deadly meltaguns via Deep Strike along with some decent AP3 shooting is always good to have purely as an option. Spamming lascannons won’t make a difference against enemy artillery hiding out of sight like Manticores or Night Spinners, but Stormtroopers Deep Striking in most certainly will as even if they fail with their shooting they still have krak grenades to fall back on. As for the traits a Command Squad brings to the table, the Clarion Vox-net special rule is very nice but ultimately won’t see much use seeing as you would need to take at least three squads in the same Platoon to really benefit from its effects. The Voice of Command special rule and boosted profile offered by the Tempestor Prime is what really matters here as giving Stormtroopers “First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire” for an extra shot per model eliminates the issues the short range of their hot-shot lasguns provides. If you are actually within 9″ of a unit and get to make use of that Order then you can reasonably count on a few casualties as even Strength 3 shooting will eventually cause some wounds, especially with that juicy AP3. The other Orders that focus on increased mobility or Precision Shots are also quite useful for Militarum Tempestus units given that they will generally be up close and trying to steal objectives from unsuspecting opponents. Both are good units and the points you pay for the Command Squad are well worth it, especially seeing as the Tempestor Prime effectively adds an extra wound (but not a model) to the unit, though if you just want the Deep Striking suicide units then the Command Squad isn’t really necessary.
How to Equip Them
With the introduction of the Wyvern and incredibly reduced cost of both the Leman Russ Eradicator and Leman Russ Executioner, the Astra Militarum has a strong case for the best equipped force for dealing with infantry of all kinds. Hellhounds, Bane Wolves, Valkyries and the other artillery variants are all fantastic at destroying infantry formations, while Infantry Platoons provide some of the most efficient long ranged anti-tank shooting you could hope for. This leaves one crucial area that the army list can be a bit lacking in and that is reliably dealing with AV14 vehicles; massed lascannons are expensive and can only get one so far against three Land Raider Crusaders packed with Deathwing and a power field generator. This is a role the Leman Russ Vanquisher is supposed to fill – that of a dedicated heavy tank hunter – but for the most part it is inefficient with just one shot that can easily be stopped through cover saves, invulnerable saves or bad rolling on an inaccurate Ballistic Skill 3 platform.
Enter Deep Striking or Outflanking squads packed with melta weaponry that have both the number of shots and the reliable AV14 penetration to deal with those insanely durable assault transports. Militarum Tempestus squads are possibly the best close-range anti-tank unit the Astra Militarum has access to outside of Veterans, if only because while Veterans require a transport and can get shot along the way to their quarry, Scions (and Command Squads) have the innate ability to Deep Strike and are thus immune to most shooting. Now that Interceptor fire must also Skyfire if that second special rule is present, Deep Striking ground units have even greater freedom than in 6th Edition to arrive and “alpha strike” enemies with their specialist weapons. That the Militarum Tempestus squads are all Ballistic Skill 4, have a five-strong minimum unit size and can take two special weapons even without adding any extra squad members gives you the equivalent of a Drop Pod full of Sternguard with combi-meltas. While Deep Striking is inaccurate and relying on Reserves to win the day won’t always work – though the Astra Militarum has ways around this with their Regimental Advisors – meltas nonetheless remain the best bet against AV14 vehicles if you have a lascannon deficiency for any reason.
Still, to say that is the only use for this unit would be downright silly – it just tends to be more of what the Astra Militarum needs from Militarum Tempestus units because anti-infantry shooting is more than handled even by a pair of Wyverns alone. That they are Ballistic Skill 4 further increases the value of single-shot weapons such as meltaguns, but also makes them good carriers for plasma guns. Just be aware of over-heating especially seeing as Militarum Tempestus models are almost as expensive as Space Marine Tactical Marines per model but are less survivable with Toughness 3 and only a 4+ armour save. Flamers are nice if you want the unit to act a small and inexpensive objective-clearing unit which can work wonders in Maelstrom of War missions due to the ever-changing nature of the game, but again you have to consider that a Wyvern can perform the same job more effectively at a lower price point. Grenade Launchers are as lacking here as they are elsewhere, while the exclusive hot-shot volley gun is a very interesting choice if you want to use the unit for straight up Space Marine hunting. The silly part of the gun is that it is Salvo which doesn’t gel at all with the Militarum Tempestus not only with the reduced 18″ range of hot-shot lasguns but also that they are naturally used for Deep Striking. They are intended to be even more mobile than Veterans in both background and rules, so being forced to sit still to get the most out of the hot-shot volley gun seems quite a waste, especially as it is priced identically to a meltagun that allows the unit to actually threaten vehicles.
I would also skip melee weapons for the Sergeants if only because Militarum Tempestus units belong in combat about as much as the other human elements in the Astra Militarum army list, which is to say not at all. Strength 3, Weapon Skill 3 and Initiative 3 are not the hallmarks of a close combat unit and even spending points on a power sword or power fist for “defensive” purposes doesn’t change the fact that the unit should be shooting and retreating from combat given their fragility. Like Veterans, you pay for that Ballistic Skill 4 and you should make full use of it (which is another reason why I prefer meltaguns or plasma guns over flamers for these units). I would skip vox casters for these units as Orders aren’t nearly as integral to their success as they are for Infantry Platoons, Conscripts and Heavy Weapons Squads, while the platoon standard also isn’t really useful given that – again – Militarum Tempestus units should be avoiding combat. Paying for Feel No Pain on a costly five-strong squad that is likely to be used in a suicidal role as per the Stormtrooper methods of war isn’t all that good of an investment, especially seeing as they are only Toughness 3 with 4+ armour saves.
As alluring as running multiple full platoons all mounted up in Taurox Prime’s might be for those that want to really embrace the new direction of the Militarum Tempestus, ultimately that army is very lacking even if you use the supplement. The firepower and survivability are frankly terrible when judged against the overall points investment of each unit and transport, while it wastes the precise shooting delivered by Deep Striking small squads across the game table. Being able to deliver medium doses of Strength 3 AP3 shooting is not to be underestimated and nor can Deep Striking meltaguns or plasma guns ever be ignored by an army that isn’t also entirely embarked exclusively upon Land Raiders. Stormtroopers are just too expensive to really be run in significant numbers given that they can be well emulated by the considerably cheaper Veterans that also bring Objective Secured and Heavy Weapons to the table. Militarum Tempestus Command Squads, on the other hand, should only be used if you actually do take at least two other Scion units – their abilities are nice for the points but only really worthwhile when you have more than two squads to benefit from them. While you can issue Orders to non-Tempestus units like any other Command Squad, if you use Stormtrooper variations as they are intended to be used – Deep Striking – they will usually be far away from other potential beneficiaries of Orders.
If you really want to make the most of their stock krak grenades, 18″ rapid fire hot-shot lasguns and option for two special weapons at the minimum squad size of five models, you want to get them as close as possible and the cheapest, most efficient method of doing that is to Deep Strike them. They thus form a great combo with the cheap Officer of the Fleet; throwing one of these into the army list works wonders as long as you have two Stormtrooper squads and a flyer or two hiding in reserves. I would keep squad sizes to a minimum because the real value comes from delivering two special weapons at super close ranges via an alpha strike, with the Strength 3 AP3 hot-shot las weapons being more of an added benefit against expensive elites than anything else. As stated previously, Astra Militarum lists have absolutely no issues with enemy infantry formations no matter their survivability, so focusing instead on anti-tank functions will make your Stormtroopers more generally useful in an army list. Two meltaguns are generally your best bet as massed Strength 7 or Strength 9 shooting based upon your preference between autocannons or lascannons will generally see to any medium or light vehicles, while AV14 always tends to be a bit of an issue for Astra Militarum lists if it is taken in multiples.
Thank you all for reading the latest segment of this series and I hope it has proved useful to your efforts as an Astra Militarum player – or even as an opponent! Though they may have been renamed to “Scions”, they will always be the awesome Stormtroopers of old and have a special place in both our hearts and in our army lists. They are a good unit purely based on their innate Deep Strike capabilities and increased special weapon options even for a minimalist basic unit size, though the sheer amount of AP3 shots they provide can make them worthwhile in larger squads.
In any case, if you have any feedback or queries for me, please feel free to post them in the comments section below. Happy hunting!