Wednesday, 27 August 2008

039 Tanks for the Memories

A recent spate of superb articles (Pathfinder and Master Darksol) has inclined me to try to pen my own ramblings, and having wondered what I know about, (most of my 'experience' being - as it is - theoretical and bound by a limited knowledge of xenos forces,) I figured I could document some of my more recent musings on the use of the Imperial Guard battle tank in 5th Edition. More accurately, the pros and cons of seven different Leman Russ (LR) battle tank (that is, with a traversing turret) variants.

In order to structure my insane ramblings, I'll first note the basic price of each of the variants and briefly discuss the merits of their main weapons. Next I'll prattle on about secondary armaments and upgrades (those I care about); and finally I'll spout my misguided conclusions about which are best for each of three roles: anti-tank, not including light vehicles (A/T); anti-personnel (A/P) and general, all-round usefulness.

Okay. Here are the seven variants I plan to discuss - each one listed with its basic (read 'cheapest') weapons configuration, in all cases, a hull-mounted hvy bolter. Those marked with an asterisk are particularly Forgeworld (FW) variants:

LR Main Battle Tank (MBT) = 145 pts
- Main weapon = battle cannon - 72"/Str8/AP3 Ord 1/Blast;
LR Demolisher (Demo) = 155 pts
- Main weapon = demolisher cannon - 24"/Str10/AP2 Ord 1/Blast;
LR Exterminator (Ext) = 125 pts
- Main weapon = T-L autocannon - 48"/Str7/AP4 Hvy 2 (T-L);
LR Annihilator* (Anni) = 135 pts
- Main weapon = T-L lascannon - 48"/St9/AP2 Hvy 1 (T-L);
LR Vanquisher* (Vanq) = 180 pts
- Main weapon = vanquisher cannon - 96"/Str8/AP3 Ord 1/Blast (or special);
LR Executioner* (Exec) = 170 pts
- Main weapon = plasma destroyer - 54"/Str7/AP2 Hvy 1/Blast;
LR Conqueror* (Conq) = 150 pts
- Main weapon = conqueror cannon - 48"/Str7/AP4 Hvy 1/Blast.

Notes on the different main weapons:
  1. The battle cannon is a reliable all-rounder: the ord. template is great against troops, but if you're firing it at a tank, it's a bit of a gamble. Str 8 isn't ideal against heavy armour, and helps if that tank is fairly big, as it's a shame when these things scatter off the mark. Very useful range.
  2. The Str10 demolisher cannon is simply great against anything (always minding the drawback of scatter, above) but its 24" range is crippling. Great in small games, but a potential liability in Apoc. or maybe even if coming on from reserve.
  3. T-L autocannon are rubbish against proper armour, but great against troops. Yes, MEQs still get their saves, but then every man and his dog gets cover saves now anyway. And luckily, I don't fight marines much!
  4. T-L lascannon are simply great against armour, and the 48" range is respectable enough to snipe at tanks.
  5. Vanq cannon = everything about the MBT battle cannon, but with a greater range. A/T shells also allow you to roll 2d6 and add them for penetration - in addition to it being Ord (see note, below).
  6. A plasma destroyer should be better than this, really: it's a good range, but the small blast template really lets it down - even with the new template rules. Str7 is rubbish against proper armour, but AP2 is great against any well-armoured troops.
  7. The Conq cannon was designed for 4th Ed, so it could move and fire (being hvy, not ord). This was achieved by weakening it to a Str7 hvy wpn. Now all tanks can fire ord on the move, it's really obsolete. More of that below.

A note about ordnance and heavy weapons on vehicles:

Ordanance is great because when penetrating armour you get to roll 2d6 and pick the highest, but you can't fire anything else simultaneously Also, when they blast, they use the big ol' 5" template. Heavy weapons, on the other hand, penetrate normally but you can fire other weapons too: all weapons if you didn't move, and defensive weapons only if you did. More on using secondary weapons later. Heavy blasts only use the 3" template, sadly.

Hull weapons, sponsons and upgrades:

In a nutshell, all my models have sponsons because I-think-it-looks-cool-and-I-built-them-before-I-realised-magnets-could-make-them-optional. I'll keep this simple: in my mind, heavy bolters are a great A/P weapon, lascannon are essential for A/T roles and plasma cannon and multi-meltas are only for those who can afford them (more of which later). Hvy flamers seem wasted; especially now that the tanks are less manoeuvrable and really vulnerable in close assault.

Smoke launchers should be free. What tank would ever go anywhere without them? And who on Earth wants to pay 3 pts for something? 3 pts? - Why round up everything else to end in a '0' or a '5', eh? it's not like they make a huge difference now anyway, given the cover rules. But they are good to have. P-M hvy stubbers can be useful in an A/P role (they're a good psychological edge too, especially on a laden Exterminator!) and extra armour's always good if you've 5 pts to spare. H/K missiles have been known to do damage in the A/T role, but are expensive at 10 pts, especially given the BS of the IG clowns firing them. I don't bother with anything else - too expensive.


Right then. Here are my thoughts for which tanks (with which essential equipment) are best (not necessarily cheapest!) in each role, in 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions. What follows each, in brackets, is any useful secondary armament - upgrades are not included herein:

A/T Role:

  1. Vanq w. hull lascannon (H/K missile)
  2. Anni w. hull lascannon (H/K missile)
  3. Demolisher w. hull lascannon (H/K missile; multi-meltas if you're feeling flash!)

A/P Role:

  1. Ext w. 3 hvy bolters + P-M hvy stubber [NB: that's a lot of shots when stationary, and the stubber counts as defensive, too. Because it's rubbish. It has a good range though...]
  2. Demo w. hull hvy bolter (against heavily armoured troops, plasma cannon in the sponsons would probably be good too, although they're not cheap, and remember: you cannot fire them with the main weapon.)
  3. MBT w. hull hvy bolter (hvy bolter sponsons are tempting, but again, can't be fired simultaneously, so you may as well keep it cheap).

General Role:

  1. MBT w. hull lascannon + sponson hvy bolters
  2. Demo w. hull lascannon + sponson hvy bolters
  3. Ext. as presented above.

The Executioner's plasma "destroyer" is by no means destructive enough to warrant its hefty points cost; especially when compared to the MBT with a greater range, larger template and a respectable AP3, and the Conqueror is simply obsolete now. Don't get me wrong: both of these are great FW models and superb for the fluff...just not so hot on value-for-money. It's a pity.

It only remains for me to note three things. Firstly, although I am biased toward the Exterminator (or 'gun platform') variant, which I love despite its drop in manoeuvrability in 5th Ed, I did chart all this stuff out and think long and hard to reach these misbegotten conclusions; secondly that it's genuinely good to note the standard Leman Russ MBT made it into the final cuts, and thirdly, that...

...the Demolisher seems to be a really good investment, making all three of my Top 3s (despite me only ever fielding one once and converting the two of mine into Annihilators). Its Str10 weapon is a real bonus, and its range can at least be bumped up by 36" range secondary weapons. IN ADDITION TO THIS, the Demo has the HUUUUUGE advantage of having better side and rear armour values than any of the others; designed, as it is, for close-quarter battle. As a reminder, the standard LR armour is 14/12/10, whereas the Demo has a stonking 14/13/11! As all assaults against tanks are now resolved against the rear armour, that's gotta be a boon, right? Right.

Ladies and gents, please: let's hear it for the Leman Russ Demolisher!

This was intended to be food for thought, rather than scientifically accurate, but I'm very interested to hear any of your thoughts, guys...

Cheers for making it through,

- Drax.


  1. Nice job, I only ever field Land Raider Crusaders with my Templars but for the IG Commander, this article seems like some well thought out insight worthy of review.

    Good work.

  2. Hey Drax,

    Drop me an email, I've got a few questions for you and I can't seem to find an email address on your blog.

    Ron Saikowski

  3. Very well thought out indeed. Will have to buy many Leman Russ Demolishers when I get around to starting that Guard army. :)

  4. This is a huge help to me. I have, after all, a large-ish IG army wasting away in their cases. I really like the idea of massed troops, but without a few tanks, why bother? So, this will be very helpful when I get around to finishing out my IG!

  5. Demolisher ... yeah, I'd have to agree with that, but with a lascannon and demolisher cannon, why take plasma cannons? The problem for me is I frequently face Eldar, and their combination of bright lances on the offence and jammy "box-waves" on the defense makes the Leman Russ equally as effective.

    I agree that the rear amour plays a crucial part in close combat, but I'd rather spend the points on more troops to guard my rear!

    For aggressive head bashing tho', gotta agree its tempting...

  6. Thanks, all.

    @Ron: Been thinking - I'll email you back in a minute.

    @SMIG: Glad I could be of some help!

    @Suneokun: Cheers - valid points all, though sadly I've no idea what a 'box wave' is or what it does. Is it some weird sort of Xenos Mexican wave?

    - Drax

  7. He means a bow wave that only works for Wave Serpents reducing all strength hits... to 8 rather than say 10 etc. It's the boon that keeps Eldar transports alive.

    Great Article - It's a shame that so many variants have become obsolete, by I am hoping that the new codex brings lot's to smile about... If only to shut Sunny up!

    You've really worked all the angles. What would would best against different armies and what combinations have you used... Sunny's working up lot's of tanks ad I'd be interested to see what your thoughts were.

  8. It was good to actually hear a little bit about Guard armor, being as how I'm largely ignorant of it.


Thanks for taking the time to comment!