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Nasty Nine - An insight to the Penal Legions.
Old 29 May 2009, 11:15   #1 (permalink)
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Default Nasty Nine - An insight to the Penal Legions.

Major: What do you think, Sergeant?
Sarge: I think you'll do just fine, sir.
Major: Don't give me that. I said what do you think?
Sarge: I think the first chance one of those lovers gets, he's going to shoot the Major right in the head... sir.

Introductions -or- I hate you guys

Penal Legions. Perhaps one of the most ignominious of the new Guard units both in fluff and use. On the surface they're pretty useless. 30 points more than an Infantry squad for a squad of lasguns with random abilities and no upgrade options. Seems like a waste and in my opinion they're 10 points too expensive but at the heart of this squad is a somewhat cheap close combat unit. True it is a fragile and relatively unreliable but no matter the crime, these guys are meant to be thrown into a melee. More on this in a moment but first lets look at their abilities.

Desperadoes - This is the unique rule of Penal Legions. Roll a D3 to find out what they can do. Every single one of these abilities has a CC use. Roll a 1? They have 24" range shotguns or 'storm las'. Shoot then charge. Roll a 2? Berserkers. Every first round of a new combat has these guys hitting like Space Marines who run like panzees er Eldar. 3? The boys brought their shanks! You have a poor man's Harlequin troupe. What you roll determines role. You don't have to tell your opponent your ability (its random so not part of the actual list) but given the right opponent you may want him stressing out over the squad. Either way if you get a psychological edge, exploit it.

Stubborn - This is KEY. No matter what your prisoners volunteers are facing they will always make an honest Morale check. They can be outnumbered, leaderless, or facing fear incarnate: they will never roll under Ld 8. This can be the key between a speed bumb and the trap that delivers a juicy target to your guns.

Scouts - Flexibility. This is all this is. As you know what your crime is before you deploy you can make adjustments to their current role. Move them to a nice location to intercept incoming assaulter units or outflank for a chance of some blindside move or even contest/seize an objective. They are troops after all.

Squishy - Ok technically not a special rule but it is an attribute. This is a 10 model, T3 unit with a 5+ save. Against dedicated combat units they disappear but against more general purpose units they can stick around a bit. Keep this in mind. Knowing what you can hold and what is a snowball's chance in hell of a victory is what should determine your actions. These guys won't win battles on their own but they can make it easier for the rest of your army. If that means taking one for the team so that the enemy can't charge on their turn then go for it.

General Uses -or- How best to gain absolution short of arco-flagellantism

As I've mentioned these guys are meant to be combat troops. EXPENDABLE combat troops. That means don't depend on them to win the war, their purpose is to make it easier for your glory boys. First these guys don't have grenades. That's right, they can't strike at normal initiative if your targets are in cover. Not a big deal most of the time unless you roll a 2 on crimes which means your Marine like speed is now trumped by Tau. Ok that important note done lets look at what to do when:

You've got storm las.
Harass. Storm las Legions can be a funny harassment squad. Sure not the most powerful of weapons but IG vets will tell you that the flashlight is best en masse and you get a 30" potential range. This is the only crime that allows you to whittle the enemy before charging and there's no penalty for movement. Toss them near cover further out from deployment then scout and/or move them in first turn. Most cases keep move/shooting until you get to something to punch. You're not getting paid to save ammo, fire away.

You've got nutjobs.
A roll of a 2 on crimes is one of the best. If you charge or get charged then you strike at S4 I4 thanks to the great combination of furious charge and counter attack. Counter attack means you act as if you're charging if charged & furious charge gives you +1 to S & I when you charge (only time this happens I swear, put down the thesaurus). That's right. Your boys can pretend to be Space Marines for the first turn of any combat. All it needs is snare mines & power weapons and this would be a perfect sentry unit. Put them in front of critical units to screen from combat (and give a cover save) or place them to guard from flank attacks.

You've got shivs.
Ooh! You can actually hurt things now! You've got more attacks that can rend meaning practically anything and everything is now a target. Up to AV12 can be glanced so anything with low rear armor can be killed. Fighting monsters? An 80 point unit took a huge chunk of your wounds. Embarrassing.

You've always got sneaky bastards.
No matter what the crime, don't forget you can outflank. If they arrive where wanted do what you will but if not then shoot. If another Guard squad is near the flank, sweet. Fire Warriors? Even better. Marines? Eh sure why not. If it shoots well, tie it up. Could mean the difference between your tanks from being blown up by AT fire or soldiers being shot to pieces.

Which one is best? -or- Ooh, whom do I hate more?

Lets make some comparisons. There's 3 main CC units in the ranks of Imperial Guard that don't fall into tooled out HQs or Characters: Conscripts, Ogryns and Rough Riders.

Conscripts - For the same cost of a Penal Legion you get double the bodies who hit like children armed with nerf bats (possible) and are led by, well no one in particular. Unless they win (again possible, with weight of numbers) they run like little girls trying to protect their virtue from a Blood Pact squad (yet again possible, depending on homeworld). You have to spend extra points on additional support like say a Commissar Lord for proper performance. With your Penal Legion you have a stand alone, ready to use unit.

Ogryns - For 4 Ogryns you can have 2 Penal Legion squads. The Ogryns are tougher, take more wounds and have bigger guns. That said they're fire magnets. If there's a S10 gun, it's pointed at them. Penal Legions will be lower priority. Use that. Small elite armies probably won't waste time on them while large hoard armies have weaker elements that can be exploited easier.

Rough Riders - These guys are MEQ/TEQ killers plain and simple. Wound Marines on 3s & take their armor save away BEFORE they can hit back? They fill a niche that Penal Legions don't quite fit no matter the crime. That said they're one time use in this role. The Hunter-Killer of the CC units.

In reality Penal Legions don't really replace any one. Two are quagmires and one is specialized. Penal Legions are one of the few surgical tools in the Guard repertoire. While you can just throw either Conscripts or Ogryns at the biggest threat you can think of and Riders are made to kill MEQs, Penal Legions require careful use for best results. Of course they can try supplementing these units but not really going to work well. Tarpits are usually holding very dangerous units for a while and Riders devastate the enemy once. Really Riders should support Legions after their glory is over if anything. Of course if you have these units then that means your Legions can hit other targets.

Teamwork -or- I have to work with this?

Now for combos. As they're random the Penal system is tolerable at best to work with and down right frustrating at best. Easiest way to work with them is orders. No rerolls for them but at least decent chance of success. Give orders that work with them. Incoming GBITF & FRFSRF come to mind. Don't attach characters. Remember that word expendable? At most they should have is support from orders. Here's a few special cases:

These guys can really make a huge difference for any CC unit. IG chaplains will make fine additions to any sentry duty units whether it involves guns, knives or crazies. However a major feature of Penal Legions is responding to its unpredictability. If you do take one then make sure to have a suitable alternative to place him in as you can't scout or outflank if need be.

This guy is just useful in general and if your Legionaries don't have to be there immediately this guy makes sure you get them in quickly & allows you to reattempt to show where you want.

His 12" radius allows your inmates to gain the best part from a number 2 crime: furious charge and counter-attack. Especially deadly combined with a number 3 criminal.

The "Like the wind" order allows you to shoot then run and assault! It works best with a number 1 crime as its an assault weapon but you could always just fire the pistol instead. As long as you don't rapid fire then the BRB doesn't have any restrictions.

Like any other unit they benefit from his unique order. FC is only useless to number 2 criminals as they already have it and fearless can be a pain but if you must hold no matter what this is it.

Rap up -or- Are they dead yet?

Penal Legions aren't going to win your fights and as such I don't recommend taking a full 6 slots from them. The glory of the Last Chancers lives only in fiction now. Of course Guard can get massive firepower from 2 Infantry Platoons so why not spent some extra points on an inmate squad or two? They can do what IG does best: Stand fast and die like Guardsmen.

Train them. Excite them. Arm them. Then set them loose on the enemy.

(On a side note I'm going to try to run a few games this weekend. Hopefully I can add new insights or tactics. Sorry if this seems a bit to long winded. Let me know your thoughts on Penal Legions.)

EDIT 1: Added sections in combos for the Priest & Astropath.
Shrouding - Just in case superior training, ridiculous firepower, and more armor than some vehicles might not be enough, we've decided you don't see them either.

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Old 29 May 2009, 13:36   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Nasty Nine - An insight to the Penal Legions.

Very Nice write-up. I hadn't considered how penal Legionaires would stack up against other CC units from the guard, and your article has sold me on the idea.

I'm surprised that you didn't mention using Priests in the combinations section...but then again, attaching one causes the 'volunteers' to lose their scout rule.
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Old 29 May 2009, 14:24   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Nasty Nine - An insight to the Penal Legions.

Very nice analysis. Karma awarded.
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Old 29 May 2009, 16:30   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Nasty Nine - An insight to the Penal Legions.

This is acctually nice to read.
I myself have some problems finding the right use for the Penal legions, but this helps a bit (mainly because I myself missed the scout rule and that on a roll the weapons are assault and not extra shot).

I am building a Starship troopers themed army, and penal legions have been in my mind for some time. Not that we can see them in the movie fighting, but it wouldnt be impossible to have penal legions and force them to fight. Heck they execute them live on the network.



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Old 29 May 2009, 22:48   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Nasty Nine - An insight to the Penal Legions.

Thanks guys. ;D

On the priest, yes good to have while these guys are on sentry duty but these guys are the demonhosts of the IG. They don't like being predictable so if you do include him better have an alternative place for your priest if you take him. I'll look into it more & do a rewrite later tonight while I watch The Dirty Dozen (had the sudden urge to watch for some reason).
Shrouding - Just in case superior training, ridiculous firepower, and more armor than some vehicles might not be enough, we've decided you don't see them either.

Acts of Faith - I choose to ignore your reality and substitute my own...for the Emperor.

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Old 30 May 2009, 07:53   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Nasty Nine - An insight to the Penal Legions.

as a 2010 project i'll be doing a Radical Flagelents army using the Penal Legionaires.

Lord Commissar
Primaris Psyker
5x Preists
5 Penal Legion squads
Veteran Squad (themed as guards)
Psyker battle squad in chimera
6 Orgyns in Chimera
6 Ogryns in Chimera
1 Vendetta with heavy bolters

Thats a rough Idea on what i plan to run as a fun thing.
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Old 30 May 2009, 09:02   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Nasty Nine - An insight to the Penal Legions.

Sometime in the future I would like to do a small Penal Legion force, 500pts I think and just see what happens. :P The writeup is very good and Penal Legionnaires are excellent and quirky, however in my main force I don't think they would fit in with the background, hence why I would like to take the smaller sized force dedicated to the Penal Legion.
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