It is written elsewhere that the (mythical & very well-hidden) breakroom in the Lead Mountain is well stocked with inspirational imagery. But the Mountain is Gormenghast-large, and hung over the mantel of a cold and dusty Electro-Fireplace, in a gilded ornamental frame, in a long and cavernous minor anteroom is this masterpiece:
The key factor about ‘The Scouring of Ralgor VII‘ by John Blanche is not its obvious footing in the old masters, nor its stirring Napoleonic imagery, not the inadvisability of marching with weapon’s shouldered so close to an armed aggressor, nor even it’s incorrect application of Command Section helmet-icons to Lasgun-equipped infantry (see below) or applicability to other articles in the same issue, but rather that it is the centre-fold image of White Dwarf 109, and more specifically the centre-piece of the Imperial Guard Army list.
23 pages are dedicated to these true heroes of the Imperium, with full Chapter Approved equipment lists, lavishly illustrated army entries, and comprehensive background.
An aside: It’s interesting to note that early on in the article, the enormous size and diversity of the Guard is mentioned, with the caveat that variations and configurations are so many that it ‘would require a work many times the size of this one and the lifetimes of many scribes beside your servant who writes this’. This servant of the ink can empathize with that sentiment, for there are more words to write than hours to write them, but it is significantly the list is confined to ‘standard-issue equipment, common troop types and conventional tactics’ given that the fashion became to emphasize the non-standard nature of the Guard in later iterations, and even to focus on specific regiments. This in turn led to curious forced marketing, as very few miniatures had access to the full spread of equipment permitted in the lists (with one exception) so fielding a viable army required either the unaesthetic mixing of regimental types or using Catachan Jungle Fighters, which in turn led GW to believe that Catachan were the most popular regiment. Thus the first plastic offering for Guard since the original RTB7 box was not (as common sense seems to dictate) ‘standard issue’, but instead the ‘roid raging meat-head vest-wearing Rambo stereotype.*
But back in the early days, the infantry were suitably generic (albeit requiring some part raiding to access some of the broad variety of potential kit) with diversity in appearance actively encouraged in the colour text and illustrations.
Much of the information about the raising and maintenance of Regiments has remained relatively canon. For example, Guard regiments are noted as not receiving replacement troops from their homeworld after their initial raising, a key plot device in Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts novels. Likewise, the combination of under-strength Regiments such as the 22/4 Valeria, or the overlordship of an occupied planet are also mentioned.
Certain troop types have since fallen by the wayside. Penal battalions eventually became whole Penal regiments in the background (as in Gav Thorpe’s ‘Last Chancers’ novels) organised much as other regiments, but naughtier (and lacking their frenzon dispensers) but the Human bomb with his explosive harness has, perhaps understandably never re-appeared.
The vehicle selection for the Imperium was of course much more limited in the 80s, so it stands to reason that Guard would have access to the two kits available, the Land Raider and Rhino. It is something of a shame this is no longer the case, because the old pattern raider goes well with Guard, and there are no concerns about the Tank Commander fitting in the turret where the breech for the oversized battlecannon goes, because a Raider hasn’t got a turret.
It also fits with the lascannon/guard bias. This Fluff-critic has always thought it best to consider Imperial Guard Land Raiders as being a 32nd Millennium concept, later restricted to Astartes alone.
The random determination of number of Commissars was something of a sore point, as D6-2 meant that many of the gorgeous Commissar miniatures could only be fielded in truly huge battles. This was somewhat rectified (and quite possibly as a direct result of the limitation) a couple of issues later by the introduction of the Cadet Commissar Training Squad.
Another curious artifact of the lists is the preponderance of lascannons. Each command section carries two, and whilst these can be exchanged, they can only be swapped out for the (only ever available in Chaos plastic) Conversion Beamer.
The same restriction also hampers Support squads, for whilst the single missile launcher might be exchanged for everything from a C-beamer to a Heavy Webber, the four lascannons in the squad are again limited to the C-beamer. Tactical squads are likewise restricted to a Lascannon or C-beamer. Even more restrictive, an upgrade must be applied to the whole platoon. (That’s a lot of Conversion Beamers.) On the other hand, the Grenade Launcher, which modern sensibilities will consider a smaller device, could readily be exchanged for any number of other heavier weapons. Not that a canny Guard officer needed any of that nonsense, given the ‘auxiliary grenade launcher/vortex grenade’ basic lasgun upgrade, although to discuss this is probably heretical.
Only one plastic trooper has survived decades in the deep delvings of the Lead Mountain, but he has done so intact, though based on his rifle, this fellow is slightly less killy than his illustrated brethren
A small sprinkling of leaf flock has reinvigorated the base a little, but otherwise the figure is just as he was in the 80s. Indecisiveness and sheer variety means that he was the only man to receive this particular Codex Approved scheme. A future article on another future White Dwarf from the past will probably go into this in more depth.
This retro-scrivener regularly fielded several thousand points of ‘Old Guard’ as an antidote to the awkward ‘character regiment’ described above.
If any more old guard figures are dredged up from the Low Workings, they will be inserted here accordingly.
*Sources close to the beating heart in Nottingham suggest that the reaction to the announcement of this was audibly negative. More modern minds at GW have returned to original form for the Imperial Guard range, although they do insist on promoting the ‘Cadian’ aspect of the figures.