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peterstepon

A Billion soldiers a day (musings on the Imperial war machine)

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During a viewing of the Nutcracker, sometime around the battle between the soldiers and the mice, my thoughts turned to warhammer 40K and I was thinking about the setting for the Jericho reach in Deathwatch.  I wondered just how to represent the size of the Imperial army and came up with a recruiting concept to put things in perspective.

What if the goal of the Imperial army was to muster a fresh Billion ( or 1,000,000,000) soldiers for the Imperial army per day.  That would be 1,000 on average per world in the Imperium.  Assuming the average population of a given world was about a billion, averaging out barely populated mining and frontier worlds, with ultra populated hive worlds with populations in the tens of billions. 1 billion per world might even be conservative.  That would mean that the imperial tithe for a given world would be approximately 360,000 a year for a planet with a population the size of India or China.  Assuming a growth of 1% a year, which might be low given that Earth has been growing about 2% a year until recently, there would be another 10 Million people added per year on said planet.  The Imperial Tithe would represent 3.6% of population growth ( or, the populace would need to grow 1.03% per year to maintain a 1% growth rate including seepage).

The Achilus Campaign has about 6 Billion soldiers devoted to it which means it would have taken about a week to raise (in the entirety of the Imperium).  Since the Imperium has countless crusades going on and countless soldiers being thrown into the meatgrinder, this is only 1 of many campaigns going on.

Bear in mind though, that a billion soldiers sounds like a lot, but spread over the galaxy, it dillutes to insignificance.  The Imperial Guard is like the Russian army, lots of soldiers thrown into the fires of war for little gain and with alot of losses expected because, well, there are lots of other people you can recruit to replace them.

In addition, getting these soldiers to the right place is difficult,due to logistics, administrative errors, bureaucracy, warp storms, the limits of how many troops the fleet can carry (a main limiting factor), warp storms, planetary rebellions, corrupt planetary governments. etc. etc.

Compare this with the Tau.  Many people would wonder why the Imperium has not crushed the Tau which is a tiny empire compared to the Imperium.  If the Imperium is like Russia, The Tau empire is like Israel.  On paper Israel should have been crushed by the arabs ages ago given the sheer size and population of the Arab world compared to the Israel, however, history has shown the opposite.  Israel won because it is a tiny country with superior weapons and doctrine (like the Tau) against an army of conscripts with poor logistics (like the Imperium).  The tiny size of the Tau empire allow them to have compact and efficient supply lines to get re-enforcements into the battle quick while the Imperium must send troops vast distances to keep the war going (the book Savage Scars, highlighted this quite well). 

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 Well, not quite. As seen in the Tactica Imperialis the Imperium doesn't recruit from all across it's territories to fuel it's wars. Recruitment is done from an expanding ring around the tension zone. Rogue planets are usually crushed by regiments drawn from neighboring worlds, and so on.

Wars on the scale of the Achilus Crusade are also very rare. Crusades with millions and billions of troops fed to the grinder (not brushfire wars named crusades by the ecclesiarchy) require the approval of the High Lords of Terra. It's quite likely that the Imperium only has perhaps a dozen Crusades on the scale of the Achilus or Sabbat worlds Crusades active at one time.

Much of the Imperium has seen no large scale war, often for a long time. The Segmentum Solar, Macharius cluster, Calixis and Scarus sectors, and many others not so often named in fluff and quite peaceful. The Imperium simply isn't raising all that many troops at one time.

Lastly the Tau. Comparing the Tau to Israel and the Imperium to the rest of the Arab world is somewhat false. Mostly because the middle east situation is more complex than total war. But, this is a 40k forum, so I don't really want to talk about modern politics.

The Tau Survive because the Imperium has never taken enough of an interest to destroy them. The Damacles Gulf Crusade was a small local effort backed by a sector Cardinal. It consisted of 12 capital ships 500 Astartes, and about 50,000 Imperial Troops. Hardly enough to conquer a few hundred worlds. The later Zeist campaign removed most of the Tau's 3rd sphere holdings, and served as a major setback to Tau expansionism. There isn't any word on the current Iron Hammer campaign against the Tau, save that the Nids attacked it.

On the ground, the Tau and Imperium are mostly matched. Fire warriors are better than the average guardsman, but there are always more guardsmen the fire warriors. The Hammerhead and Leman Russ are largely even, with a slight edge to the Hammerhead.

In space, the Tau are way behind the Imperium. Their FTL is much slower, and weapons wise, if the Imperial navy can close though torpedo range. The fight is mostly over.

 

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peterstepon said:

 

In addition, getting these soldiers to the right place is difficult,due to logistics, administrative errors, bureaucracy, warp storms, the limits of how many troops the fleet can carry (a main limiting factor), warp storms, planetary rebellions, corrupt planetary governments. etc. etc.

Check out Achillus Assault, they go into some detail about the crusade and what had to happen to get it moving. They don't get down to the precise number of individuals, but it covers a lot of this type of stuff and makes for some nice flavor text

peterstepon said:

Compare this with the Tau. Many people would wonder why the Imperium has not crushed the Tau which is a tiny empire compared to the Imperium.

As SomVone indicates, this is beacuse Empire of Man has got a lot on its plate. The Tau are small and slow moving, and aren't super agressive (in comparison to other races). Things like the Tyranids and constant threats of Orks and Chaos keep them busy, and they haven't determined the Tau to be a total threat to galactic control and so haven't diverted resources to crush this tiny empire.  The first meeting with the Tau resulted in them getting beaten back pretty hard, and when an Inquisitor ordered a break in the action, they negotiated a settlement.

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That's not what bothers me. What bothers me is the amount of Astartes activity in the sector. You have most of an entire chapter here, the Storm Wardens. You have every major chapter operating in the reach, every loyalist first founding. The Imperium can't afford the Astartes devoting that much attention to one sector/reach in to many different places. I understand this is required to include all the favourite chapters. But the result is "Astartes, Astartes everywhere".

Okay, I am exaggerating but you get my point. How many Sectors exist in the Imperium? And how many Reaches and expanses on its fringes?

 

Alex

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The Storm Wardens thing I can buy pretty easily; their Chapter homeworld is in Calixis and a lot of the stuff happening in Calixis (represented in Dark Heresy) is not really appropriate for SM-style intervention -- barring events like the war on Tranch, which are a lot more isolated and long-term than, say, events in the modules which PC acolytes will be thrust into. The Storm Wardens thus have little going on in Calixis. It makes sense for them to focus instead on the nearest Imperial Crusade and devote forces to it, especially as the Koronus Expanse is not being targeted by the greater Imperial war machine for true annexation.

On the note of so many other Astartes: I rationalize it by taking a look at other Crusades and wars in recent Imperial history. The Damocles Gulf Crusade involved 8 Chapters even before the Imperium knew the capabilites of the Tau Navy at Hydass and Dal'yth. The Third War for Armageddon (which hasn't occurred in the DW timeline yet but has in the overall 40k setting) involved a staggering 24 Chapters and a combined total of 147 standard Companies (with some Chapters devoting all 10 Companies - that's max 14,700 Space Marines fighting over a single planet, assuming all Companies were at maximum capacity) and 3 Black Templar Crusades, which are each at LEAST 100 Space Marines and likely more than that as they're not Codex-compliant at all.

In short, the Imperium tends to deploy a lot of force (especially compared to the force sizes we're used to seeing IRL) even when they don't necessarily expect as much resistance, in part I imagine because the vagaries of the Warp make it impossible to know what forces will actually arrive or when. And if anything in Jericho, the Imperium undercommitted.

On the notion of 1 billion per day Imperium-wide - that might be feasible. Consider that the Achilus Crusade is only still running because the Margin Crusade still exists on paper, allowing for direct heavy tithing from at least 3 sectors - Calixis, Ixanid, Scarus. There's little sense to tithe from Segmentum Solar or Tempestus or Pacificus and shipping the troops across the galaxy either; that's just bad use of logistics, and SMs can cross the galaxy easier, cheaper, and theoretically safer than Navy ships ferrying huge IG contingents about. There's also the very true fact that the Achilus Crusade is one engagement over a single sector. Meanwhile the rest of Ultima Segmentum is probably dealing with other remnants of Hive Fleet Behemoth (if Dagon is indeed a Behemoth splinter-fleet, it makes sense that there are others elsewhere). Other areas have their own issues. There are uprisings and chaos attacks and slews of lesser xenos which are never named but nevertheless hated by Man and who hate Man in return. If the Imperium devoted even 1% of its total resources to Achilus, it could take it, but the result would be moving huge resources huge distances and taking them from other places that might need them. Recapturing Jericho isn't worth it if, say, 18 sectors in Tempestus successfully secede or something. That's a huge net loss.

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Achillus Assault indicates 'several dozen' chapters contributed, but most refused the call for aid because they were preoccupied or they decided that they didn't want to get involved with a crusade that was so secret.  In "My" Reach, I have several chapters, but not dozens, and not every major one represented- I agree that it felt a little overkill, but I see the neccesity to do it in the game.  Honestly most of the fluff text I've found barely touches on the other chapters, just indicating that there are Astartes in the Reach, so I take that to be 'as much or as little as I need at the time.'

Also, found the page in the book that talks about Guardsman numbers in the crusade.  At the outset, it's reported there were a billion front line troops, and then by the time the Hadex anomoly was discovered, there were some 4 Billion in front line service, and it has 'increased' since the arrival of the Tyranids.

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ak-73 said:

That's not what bothers me. What bothers me is the amount of Astartes activity in the sector. You have most of an entire chapter here, the Storm Wardens. You have every major chapter operating in the reach, every loyalist first founding. The Imperium can't afford the Astartes devoting that much attention to one sector/reach in to many different places. I understand this is required to include all the favourite chapters. But the result is "Astartes, Astartes everywhere".

Okay, I am exaggerating but you get my point. How many Sectors exist in the Imperium? And how many Reaches and expanses on its fringes?

 

Alex

This is hardly a "problem" limited to the Jericho reach. And it's not limited to the Astartes either. How many regiments can Cadia really muster for export? There's a million or whatever planets in the Imperium, yet most of the IG seems to come from a handful worlds.

Some details are just better being overlooked. This is one of them. What I would say is a GM should make sure to filter down the number of chapters to just those that need to be there and re-skin any other Marines that show up in various supplements to those chapters. Likewise, as Cadia is nowhere near Calixis, I'd just reskin any Cadian regiments if I was concerned about that affecting the feel.

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CorpseGod said:

Alex

 

 

This is hardly a "problem" limited to the Jericho reach. And it's not limited to the Astartes either. How many regiments can Cadia really muster for export? There's a million or whatever planets in the Imperium, yet most of the IG seems to come from a handful worlds.

Some details are just better being overlooked. This is one of them. What I would say is a GM should make sure to filter down the number of chapters to just those that need to be there and re-skin any other Marines that show up in various supplements to those chapters. Likewise, as Cadia is nowhere near Calixis, I'd just reskin any Cadian regiments if I was concerned about that affecting the feel.

Well... the Cadian sector is about 1 sector removed from Calixis, which is a looong way in miles. Like wise the Krieg forces are in a similar position so they did pick the closest really famous regiments. You still wouldn't have thought that Cadia could spare the troops for other sectors but perhaps they farm out a small number of very thinly spread regiments as spear head units and experience.

I've been reading the Sabbat World Crusade book. That also says they started the campaign with a billion troops and that there were 8 other major crusades at that time. So baring that in mind you might well expect to see to 10% of all in Space Marines in each of the Crusades with 20% reserves and really you want your Space Marines in the Crusades rather than fighting minor actions. However the Sabbat world Crusades also mentions only a couple of chapters, only 1 at the start so that doesn't seem to be universal. Also the Third battle for Armageddon envolved about 14% of all loyalist Space Marines, and on one planet no less, so you would expect that to be by as high a density as you would ever get in the Modern Imperium.

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Face Eater said:

Well... the Cadian sector is about 1 sector removed from Calixis, which is a looong way in miles. Like wise the Krieg forces are in a similar position so they did pick the closest really famous regiments. You still wouldn't have thought that Cadia could spare the troops for other sectors but perhaps they farm out a small number of very thinly spread regiments as spear head units and experience.

Out of curiosity, where do you get the info on Cadia in relation to Calixis? Ixaniad is the next coreward sector, Cadia seems to lie in that direction, but on the other side of the Eye of Terror from Calixis. So, even if it's "adjacent" administratively, to get around the eye just seems to me to make for a bit of a journey.

I guess one thing mitigating for the presence of so many other forces is that this is 817.M41 going by the official timeline. That puts it before the Second War for Armageddon, before the Badab War, before the Necrons begin waking up in force, and the most recent Black Crusade was in 139.M41, so it's possible the Cadians and the Chapters tasked with protecting the gate are being sent VERY far afield.

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peterstepon said:

Bear in mind though, that a billion soldiers sounds like a lot, but spread over the galaxy, it dillutes to insignificance.  The Imperial Guard is like the Russian army, lots of soldiers thrown into the fires of war for little gain and with alot of losses expected because, well, there are lots of other people you can recruit to replace them.

...The Tau empire is like Israel.  On paper Israel should have been crushed by the arabs ages ago given the sheer size and population of the Arab world compared to the Israel, however, history has shown the opposite.  Israel won because it is a tiny country with superior weapons and doctrine (like the Tau) against an army of conscripts with poor logistics (like the Imperium).  The tiny size of the Tau empire allow them to have compact and efficient supply lines to get re-enforcements into the battle quick while the Imperium must send troops vast distances to keep the war going (the book Savage Scars, highlighted this quite well). 

Except that doesn't really work. Either historically or in 40k terms.

The Soviet army briefly threw troops at the problem... and then found that they had chronic manpower shortages and so stopped doing it. As cheap as life is; throwing troops away means that you eventually run out, and it's horribly inefficient. If you are shipping troops a thousand light years, then it pays to make sure that they are worth shipping, and that you spend more than a week training them! Front line troops are the minority in the military: There is a massive logistical chain that supports them. Each life might mean nothing, but if it took a thousand gallons of fuel and three months to get him/her to the warzone, then it's a chronic waste of materiel. The Imperium cannot afford to literally care nothing for its Guard, nor to send them under-trained into distant warzones. PDF: Sure; as a stop-gap. Guard are more likely to be well trained elite troops by our standards.

The Tau are nothing like Israel. Israel survives as a State due to massive amounts of external assistance both in terms of diplomatic pressure on opposing elements, and in the supply of military hardware and technology and vast piles of cash from sympathetic corners. The Tau have none of that. Also: The Israeli army in not *against* conscripts: It *is* conscripts. Whereas its opposing elements are not conscripted and are there because of ideological beliefs. The Tau survive because the Imperium haven't got around to crushing them, due to other pressures.

The Tau supply lines are short; not fast. Tau interstellar transport is of low standard by Imperium standards. It's just that they are tiny, and the lines are short. And their tactics are not 'superior', simply different. All tactics and battles essentially are based on one of two concepts: Maneuver or Attrition. One is not 'better' than the other. The Tau use the former type of warfare and excel at it. The Imperium uses Attrition Warfare and excels at that.

I would also highly dispute that Imperium logistics are inferior to anyone else's. They can't be, given the size of the place and the efficiency with which it moves goods, troops and psykers around. The entire Imperium would fall apart without excellent logistics.

 

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Siranui said:

I would also highly dispute that Imperium logistics are inferior to anyone else's. They can't be, given the size of the place and the efficiency with which it moves goods, troops and psykers around. The entire Imperium would fall apart without excellent logistics.

 

To support the point, page 28 Achilus Assault (again, I know, but it goes ito some really nice details about this type of stuff, I highly recomend it to anyone that wants to look think about that part of the setting)

If this illustrates the true extent of the Crusade’s raw manpower, consider its relation to the supply of the essentials
of war. How many lasgun power packs pass through the fortress worlds of the Iron Collar each day simply to keep
the six billion Guardsmen fi ring their weapons? How many shells are expended by the hundreds of thousands
of tanks employed in the Crusade’s armies? How many millions of tons of fuel and spare parts are required to
keep those and other vehicles moving? And what of the consumable foodstuffs and medicinal supplies each
Guardsman needs each day? Needless to say, the fl ow of supplies, ordnance and other materiel through the
[[[DELETED]]] is constant, for but a single day’s interference might result in the loss of entire worlds.

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Siranui said:

Siranui said:

The Soviet army briefly threw troops at the problem... and then found that they had chronic manpower shortages and so stopped doing it. As cheap as life is; throwing troops away means that you eventually run out, and it's horribly inefficient. If you are shipping troops a thousand light years, then it pays to make sure that they are worth shipping, and that you spend more than a week training them! Front line troops are the minority in the military: There is a massive logistical chain that supports them. Each life might mean nothing, but if it took a thousand gallons of fuel and three months to get him/her to the warzone, then it's a chronic waste of materiel. The Imperium cannot afford to literally care nothing for its Guard, nor to send them under-trained into distant warzones. PDF: Sure; as a stop-gap. Guard are more likely to be well trained elite troops by our standards.

I don't disagree with the point your trying to make and tend to apply some of the same "How must this work in actuality because the people that wrote it have no idea." but one of the core concepts of the setting seems to be that for all the expenses of shipping men and materials interstellar distances they still treat them like proverbial canon fodder issue on average a las rifle, some armor that American GI's today would turn their noses up at and a field kit and then flung across the galaxy. Their training what isn't accomplished on their homeworld will be continued enroute, if their lucky by cadre who've actually seen combat but who likely don't have much more experience they they do and almost certainly nothing theater specific.

In short the only way such a system can even concievably work to me is if transport literally costs nothing but the food to feed the troops which is a resource too cheap to meter. Realisticly that's the only way that mile long ships with vaulted gothic ceilings, crew populations in the 90000+ range and other conceits of the Warhammer universe really work if we toss out certain inconvenient concepts like common sense, reason, and logistics.

Fortunately we can throw all those concerns in a big box labeled Departmento Munitorum(sp?) it shouldn't come up with your average player but it's a good tool to impress people, especially space marines with the sense of scale. They are one of numberless billions but they can and do make a difference because of their gifts and ability. And it provides a good reason to not thumb your nose at the administratum or else food supplies might stop coming to your homeworld by accident.

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lurkeroutthere said:

I don't disagree with the point your trying to make and tend to apply some of the same "How must this work in actuality because the people that wrote it have no idea." but one of the core concepts of the setting seems to be that for all the expenses of shipping men and materials interstellar distances they still treat them like proverbial canon fodder issue on average a las rifle, some armor that American GI's today would turn their noses up at and a field kit and then flung across the galaxy. Their training what isn't accomplished on their homeworld will be continued enroute, if their lucky by cadre who've actually seen combat but who likely don't have much more experience they they do and almost certainly nothing theater specific.

According to various Imperial Guard codices over the years, the standard tithe of Imperial Guard regiments is 10% of the pre-existing armed forces on the world of origin, and that a world can be punished severely if it supplies sub-standard troops.

As for equipment quality... a lasgun is a weapon approximately as effective as a contemporary assault rifle, potentially moreso depending on pattern, but with the added advantages of greater reliability and rechargeable ammunition. Flak Armour - if you actually look at Guard Flak Armour in the 40kRP rulebooks, is actually quite effective protection - the wargame's mechanics skew perceptions of flak armour, as does a preponderance of weapons capable of ignoring standard infantry armour within the wargame rules.

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N0-1_H3r3 said:

As for equipment quality... a lasgun is a weapon approximately as effective as a contemporary assault rifle, potentially moreso depending on pattern, but with the added advantages of greater reliability and rechargeable ammunition. Flak Armour - if you actually look at Guard Flak Armour in the 40kRP rulebooks, is actually quite effective protection - the wargame's mechanics skew perceptions of flak armour, as does a preponderance of weapons capable of ignoring standard infantry armour within the wargame rules.

I agree, I think this is oft overlooked.  Your average Guardsman's kit is actually quite good- Flak amor protects the whole body at only 24lbs (11kg).  It does well at stopping comparible wepaonry.  And the Lasgun has decent stopping power, a huge magazine that can be recharged, and is quite reliable.  What would a current US soldier give to have whole body protection for under 90 pounds, or a magazine that holds 80 shots, or temperature absorbant materials to help hide him (or her) from heat sensing equipment?

But, in a wargame (or RPG), where would you be if the Guardsman was the pinnacle of the human forces?  Someone has to be the bottom of the pile, and thematically it makes sense, to me, for the common soldier to be it.

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True that, the guardsman is the baseline that all other troops get to look good against, however what seems even worse a lot of times is the doctrine and tactics. Yay for the grim dark return of trench warfare. Also US Soldiers always want the best kit they can get, their bitchy like that. gran_risa.gif

The fact there's not just power armor to outshine it, plus carapace and other variants plus the grim dark approach to strategy and tactics means it will always suck to be a guardsman.

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What I really like about the doctrine and tactics is it varies so wildly- you've got old fashoned (and insane) trench arfare in one place but you've got fast/mobile warfare doctrines in other areas.  All about the local commanders, but some of them are very meatgrinder-ific.

And the guardsman sucking is probably the reason I like them so much- who is more of a hero, the Astartes who doesn't even know how to fear, or the guardsman that probably wet his pants but still puts his boots on and tries to stab the Hive Tyrant?  Courage here, not most likely to be victorious gran_risa.gif

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 The only true bad part about the lasgun is that although it's clearly intended to be the go-to infantry weapon, for some inane reason it lacks full-auto and (IIRC) thus can't be used for suppressive fire or overwatching. Have yet to find a good justification in the fluff for this. 

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Kshatriya said:

 The only true bad part about the lasgun is that although it's clearly intended to be the go-to infantry weapon, for some inane reason it lacks full-auto and (IIRC) thus can't be used for suppressive fire or overwatching. Have yet to find a good justification in the fluff for this. 

There's a good refutation of this in the Gaunt's Ghosts novels, it frequently has them toggling to full auto. But, it also mentions in Guns of Tanith (I think that's the right novel anyway) that the Ghosts' lasguns use a different charge pack than that of some other regiments, so perhaps there's a variation in pattern there.

Then again, that's Abnett. He's not a stickler for those kinds of details being consistent with anything else. All my books are packed away at the moment, I forget what the munitorum handbook and uplifting primer have to say on the topic.

What I would say is that because it's S/3, it's got sufficiently rapid fire that the logistical simplification afforded by an easily renewable ammo supply probably make up for it in the minds of the Munitorum. Charge packs are gear, not consumables like an autogun's ammo. That means a trooper's ability to live off the land is greatly enhanced. Finding food is a bit easier than ammo.

Of course for our purposes, such concerns are probably irrelevant. Gimme full auto baby!

 

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Kshatriya said:

 The only true bad part about the lasgun is that although it's clearly intended to be the go-to infantry weapon, for some inane reason it lacks full-auto and (IIRC) thus can't be used for suppressive fire or overwatching. Have yet to find a good justification in the fluff for this. 

Switch to the Black Crusade versions of those actions - weapons can suppressive fire on semi-auto (less effective than full-auto), and weapons can be used on overwatch at any rate of fire, not only full-auto.

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Guest Not In Sample

Certainly when dealing with the Guard I am channelling a certain sort of war movie:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AidvXzNKC4

So after being shipped over interstellar distances packed in like cattle, every other man is given a lasgun and the other man a charge pack. 'The one with the lasgun shoots! The one without, follows him! When the one with the lasgun gets killed, the one who is following picks up the lasgun and shoots!'

And we have Commisars and Blocking Detachments who gun down anyone who tries to run away.

The Imperium is just that kind of place.

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N0-1_H3r3 said:

Kshatriya said:

 

 The only true bad part about the lasgun is that although it's clearly intended to be the go-to infantry weapon, for some inane reason it lacks full-auto and (IIRC) thus can't be used for suppressive fire or overwatching. Have yet to find a good justification in the fluff for this. 

 

 

Switch to the Black Crusade versions of those actions - weapons can suppressive fire on semi-auto (less effective than full-auto), and weapons can be used on overwatch at any rate of fire, not only full-auto.

For those of us without BC, I'd suggest just giveing some weapons the 'suppressing' quality.  I've heard of it done in a couple of campaigns, speficially with the standard boltgun, which is only semi-auto if you're using the errata rules.  Given that FA doesn't seem to really be tied to the ammo expended as much as it does the column in which that number appears in.  lengua.gif

And yes, lasguns have a different fire rate depending on who/what you read.

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