Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tactica: Penal Legion?!

Penal Legion (1)

Hey everyone,

So Its been a while since I’ve done one of these types of articles, mainly because I don’t get to play as much as I’d like anymore. However, there’s one or two units I’d really like to give my opinions on from the Imperial Guard codex. Veterans will be my next choice, and none of this Mech Guard “All vets in Chimeras” crap either.

Anywho, this time, I want to touch on a unit that gets passed up a lot, especially by me. I’ve gotten a lot of flak on places like DakkaDakka or the Bell of Lost Souls for my opinions on Penal Legion, but let me explain myself more. BTW, in case the picture is a little strange, my Penal Legion is a combination of my IG army and my gang for Necromunda.



  • Scout and Stubborn mean they can come in from the sides and stick in somewhere.
  • Desperadoes keeps the unit both fluffy and effective, depending on the roll on the table.


  • Its fluffy I know, but you can’t upgrade them at all!
  • They’re 80 points for the unit, and in the end, they’re still Guard…
  • “Gunslingers” is alright; it essentially gives the unit Shotguns.

Now at first glance, just write them off. They’re expensive, crappy, and uncustomizable. However, Desperadoes easily makes up for them. 1-2 is ok, 3-4 is excellent, and 5-6 is really nice, as long as you get the charge. To really make them nasty, hope for a 3+. Attach a Ministorum Priest, and put them in a Valkyrie or Vendetta. Turn two or three, these guys fly in, hunker down, then jump out the next turn.

With Psychopaths, you’re getting about a 15” charge range with S4 I4 maniacs which reroll to hit.

With Knife Fighters, you’re getting a 12” charge as usual with over 30 attacks with the ability to Rend. The Priest almost guarantees 75% hit, meaning you will roll 6s. 

While not my favorite unit, they have the potential to be extremely nasty. However, with my style of Infantry and a Veteran Squad, its going to be a while before I decide to run them all the time. Just on a modeling note, doing a 1k Shaeffer’s Last Chancers army for the WAR Games Con Team Tournament.

I’d love to hear everyone’s input on Penal Legion. Have you succeeded with them? Are they complete rubbish? Or the red-headed Stepchild of the Guard?



  1. I've tried to use penal legion before but they just keep on underwhelming me. Rending is realistically the only good option for them as it allows them to take out relatively weak mcs like carnifexes, wraithlords and tervigons with ease. With anything else they quickly become terrible.

    Gunslingers is probably the second best option as storm lasguns at least allow them to stay in cover and attempt to torrent something to death.

    Psycopaths just isn't that scary as even on the charge they are just the equivalent of a much more fragile tac squad... and who beyond a lone guard squad is afraid of that in cc?

    Knife fighters as mentioned previously is only good against less combat capable mcs that they can hope to rend to death quickly. I guess they are pretty good against vehicles as well... but the guard already have a plethora of ways to deal with both already.

    The only times id take them are in a fluffy list or maybe as a fun scoring option if I'm not running a platoon... but even then a vet squad with an autocannon is probably better for the same cost.

    If they only had grenades, the ability to get larger squads, able to buy options or even had a suicide bomber attack they might be good... but with only 10 guardsmen they just can't do enough damage.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly. Fluffy lists with Penal Legion are good, but even standard All-Comers lists shouldn't have these.

  3. These are one of the first units I put in most of my guard armies. I've had some excellent games with them, and while they can be dealt with swiftly (being nothing more than a guard squad at the end of the day) if used wisely can be game winning.

    Gunslingers. You have a 24" assault 2 weapon. So walk away from the enemy firing back at them to full effect. They try to close range on you, meaning they can only rapid fire. Stay between 13 and 24" away you'll win that any day. Against ones that want to assault you and so will run you'll have a harder time (especially if they have fleet) but you'll still do better than standard guard.

    Psychopaths and knife fighters - both good ways of giving you a bit of combat punch that can do well, particularly if you put some fire into a target first so the penal legion need only finish off the remnants.

    Stubborn - a scoring unit that can hunker down in cover for a 3+ save (2+ if told to do so by an officer) on an objective so the enemy has to come and assault them off... and then the target is stubborn so makes a last turn objective grab no sure thing.

    Scout - being able to get a scoring unit into the opposition half to threaten their objectives is no bad thing, and while yes the valkyries can also do this taking penal legion is a) cheaper and b) frees up those vlakyrie seats for other units.

    Personally I usually take Straken too, and if you've been lucky enough to roll rending on the penal squad there's nothing better than assaulting someone and saying "Right those penal legion have 30 attacks with rending, and because Straken is nearby they also have furios charge..." 33 Str 4 I 4 attacks with rending? Yes please! I've used this combo to tear through an opponents backline on multiple occassions. Sure, they'll get killed eventually - but any fire dedicated to dealing with these problems is not firing where the enemy originally wanted it to fire. Don't underestimate the psychological effect on your opponent of having guardsmen that can show up on top of him and give him a bloody nose in combat. Most players react badly to this and want to exterminate this embarrassment. While they deal with that, my scoring units sit on my objectives happily unmolested.

    Admittedly in kill point missions they are more of a liability, but then as they arrive I just look around - if there's a target of opportunity to hand I'll take it, otherwise I'll bring them in in my own backline out of the way somewhere.