Welcome to our complete guide on The Astra Militarum Cadian Tactics Warhammer 40k 9th edition! You’re no power armored death machine, no pious Sister of Battle, no warp infused monster, no bastion of psyker power, your ancient technology is practical rather than high-performance, and you don’t even have the benefit of the greater good. You command the rank and file of what was formerly the Imperial Guard.
Your lasguns are sometimes referred to as “Flashlights” by the average player. But you know the thing about 30 lasguns firing at once in a single barrage when the conscripts come out? That’s a whole lot of firepower in Astra Militarum Tactics!
Astra Militarum Tactics
Play the Astra Militarum tactics if you want to outnumber your enemies with vast squads with special weapons, and throw bodies at them until they break. Play the Astra Militarum tactics to unleash the power of some of the mightiest vehicle formations in the setting as you give orders to change the face of the battlefield, destroying your enemies with tactics and strategy.
Everyone’s confident going up against the Imperial Guard until the artillery hits, company commanders give orders, the conscripts charge, and the Tanks go to work. Pound them in the skies with Valkyries and when all else fails: unleash the legendary Baneblade!
“To each of us falls a task. And all the Emperor requires of us Guardsmen is that we stand in line, and we die fighting. It is what we do best: we die standing.” -General Sturnn, Commander of the Cadian 412th. (Dawn of War)
This particular version of the guide focuses on the Cadians. Just remember: the planet broke before the Imperial Guard did. CADIA STANDS. And your enemies will fall!
Why Play the Astra Militarum?
- Massive Infantry Formations
- The Lehman-Russ Tank
- One of the most extensive unit lists in the game, allowing you to build your army to include everything from Rough Rider cavalry, to flame tanks, to Tempestus Militarum drop troops. You have a ridiculous number of options
- A vast unit variety means no two guard armies look alike, and you can paint and customize to make them be from any world in the Imperium, which allows for incredible creativity.
- The Orders System allows you to take minor units and turn them into major players, or otherwise change up how dangerous your force is at any given time.
- Twice as much infantry means twice as much to paint and buy. A basic Imperial Guard army means some of the most extensive army building and miniatures purchases in the entire game
- Your infantry will be cut down like wheat at harvest, including your commanders. The wrong matchup can lead to an entire dead ground force if you misplace your infantry and the sheer weight of bodies you can deploy doesn’t do the job. Certain Astra Militarum specific Stratagem choices can counteract that on the fly, but it’s not perfect.
- Your deployment depends on Orders, which means that figuring out how to balance an army for combat always puts you on the razors edge.
- If you’re not using everything on your board as a force multiplier for everything else, you’re going to get steamrolled by the first person who notices which type of unit you’re not geared to deal with. You’re versatile! But finicky!
- The current Astra Militarum Codex is outdated, and doesn’t have the breadth of options and power creep notable in other Codexes. It is not currently set up to take advantage of 9th edition rules changes.
- The changes to Overwatch rules in 9th edition put a standard Imperial Guard shooting army at a disadvantage compared to the Assault based enemies it used to dominate. This may change with a new Astra Militarum Codex release.
Playing any Astra Militarum formation starts with picking your commanders. You always have to take 2, and few are more distinctive than The Company Commander: Depending on who you put into play, you’ll be able to make squads tougher, move faster, or hit harder with your basic choices. A group of conscripts suddenly becomes a major threat with the right order.
“First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire” by itself allows your lasguns to rapidfire for the infamous “whole lot of diddly” effect with a massive barrage. “Bring it Down” lets you reroll 1s, allowing you to use your heavy weapons to even heavier effect. “Fix Bayonets” lets you immediately fight enemies within one inch of your unit as though you were in the fight phase, for when you need to start a melee right then and there with no questions asked.
“Forward, For the Emperor!” lets you immediately shoot even if you advanced, for when you need your Guardsmen to take a position and immediately assault it. “Get Back in the Fight” lets you order a unit that fell back to fire anyway. “Move! Move! Move!” Lets you immediately move a unit during the shoot phase, though it has a number of caveats to avoid too much cheese. An“Take Aim!” Lets you reroll 1s during the hit phase.
Imperial Guard Orders
Depending on what kind of squad you’re dropping orders on, you can take a seemingly underpowered blob of guardsman into an utter nightmare. Orders are the bread and butter of an Imperial Guard unit, and any smart opponent is going to gun for your company commanders as soon as they spot them. It’s a good thing they have a 5+ invulnerable save, but you will eyeball that oncoming 6 with terror.
The trick is that a commander needs to roll under a unit’s leadership in order to successfully give an order, which is always a moment of terror. Vox Casters can make that easier, giving your Commander 18 inches of command range, but the question is, can you please this time just roll under your target’s leadership?
Which brings us to the Lord Commissar. Normally, Commissars are a classic Imperial Guard option, because delivering orders, and avoiding your ranks breaking or withdrawing requires a morale test. Commissars have the option of executing a single model in a squad that’s failed a morale test. You lose one of your highly expendable soldiers, and get the entire force to stand tough.
Also, Lord Commissars allow all units within 6 Inches to use their leadership instead of their own: with a leadership of 9, odds are, Lord Commissars in a formation will ensure that statistically, your orders will be followed. They can also be one of the best combat commanders the Imperial Guard can field, though let’s be clear: if any of your commanders are in a melee or fighting directly, something’s gone wrong.
But that’s why Commanders usually have vast squads at their disposal. Starting with the commander themselves, one of your Elite options is a command squad: an easy group to connect your Commander to. Give them a Vox Caster to give extra command range built in, and a regimental standard to increase all of your units’ leadership by +1. They’re not mandatory, but it’s an easy way to give your Company Commander a healthy buffer with trouble, and support tools to make them more effective.
Astra Militarum Cadian Infantry Squads
The most basic function of the Imperial Guard hasn’t changed too much in the past two editions. The original linked 50 Unit “First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire” group of guardsmen doesn’t exist anymore, but you still have an overwhelming 10 units per infantry squad, compared to other armies which stick to 5.
Heavy Weapons Teams can be attached to infantry squads, adding a significant punch with mortars, autocannons, heavy bolters, missile launchers, or mortars. Specialist squads from the Elite choices let you do things like put together sniper teams and a melta gunner group, for when you need a specific goal accomplished. Nothing beats removing an enemy specialist unit with snipers, or taking out a tank with a well placed team of melta-gunners.
The biggest drawback you have: your individual squads lack the same punch of other armies. There’s a significant difference between 5 space marines with bolters and 10 guardsmen with their shiny flashlights. But remember: you have 10 guardsmen for their 5 marines, and your 10 are cheaper to deploy. A Imperial Guard army can have 60 regular guardsmen on the field, or 180 conscript models on the field in a standard Combat Patrol – PL 50 game. You can utterly bury your opponents under sheer weight of arms if you want to. Assuming you have the patience to paint, prep, and haul all those models.
But beyond basic squads, The Astra Militarum tactics has some more specialized infantry.
The easiest way to beef up your firepower in an engagement is with a Heavy Weapons Squad. Long ago, the Heavy Weapons Squad was an infantry choice. Now however, it’s been turned into a Heavy Support option. Sometimes, the best reinforcement is 3 individual heavy weapons teams holding either mortars, autocannons, heavy bolters, missile launchers, or the classic lascannon. They’re fragile, but a Heavy Weapons Squad is a cheap way to give your mass of guardsmen some real fire support.
And nothing beats giving a “Bring it Down” order to your Heavy Weapons Squad and watching three lascannons tear enemy armor to shreds. Alternatively? Just stock up with 3 heavy weapons squads, fill them entirely with mortars, and start pounding away at targets 48 inches away with your 9 mortars, taking out swathes of enemy infantry on the cheap starting at turn 1.
Of course, there is the most traditional Imperial Guard combination of all: the conscript block. While the days of linked 50 conscript blobs may be gone, 30 Imperial Guard conscript blocks do remain. Your conscript block can unleash 30 lasgun shots in a round, and with a quick application of “First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire,” you can make that 60.
Your hit roll is lower than normal guardsmen units, and it’s very, very hard to get conscripts to receive orders due to their leadership of 4 and a 4+ “Raw Recruits” roll required to make the attempt. But both these rolls can be modified, and when you have 60 shots to put your target down, there’s a high, high likelihood they’re not getting back up. And that’s 30 bodies between your vital units and whatever the problem is.
Which brings us to the most famed Astra Militarum unit of all: The Lehman-Russ Tank.
The Lehman-Russ comes in Battle Tank, Demolisher, Eradicator, Executioner, Punisher, and Vanquisher flavors. Each is centered around a specific type of threat. Each has a way of changing how your army functions. They can come in 3 tank squads for 10 points a tank, with a killer primary weapon, and 3 additional weapons depending on your model and point choices.
What’s better than a trio of tanks, besides a trio of tanks with 3 heavy bolters each and a Storm Bolter each? It’s effectively like having a heavily armored squad of Space Marines per tank as well as a massive cannon and an armor shell that doesn’t crack. Some people play Astra Militarum just to deploy armored tank formations, and it’s obvious why. The Lehman-Russ tank is one of the deadliest things in the 41st Millenium.
Then of course, we come to the Fast Attack section. Much of what has been discussed is slow, plodding, a juggernaut of bodies and metal, but sometimes you need to move fast and fill the gaps in your formation.
What really makes the Astra Militarum shine though, is that your particular regiment could be painted and storied to be from anywhere in the Imperium. Do you want armored cavalry lizards? You have the option to deploy armored cavalry lizards.
Walking mechs, Sentinels, come in both the armored and scout flavors, one for heavy assaults, the other deployable ahead during the scouting phase. The Hellhound, and its classic variants the Banewolf and Devil Dog, are fast moving medium tanks. They are basically rolling flamethrowers (Hellhound, infantry killer); Chemical Gunner (Banewolf: no attack rolls, just damage), and Melta Gunner (Devil Dog, Anti-Armor tank hunter), respectively. They’re fast, respectably armored, and can outflank in unusual maneuvers.
Sentinels come in two flavors: scout and armored. Scout Sentinels of course have the scouting ability, allowing them to start play further up on the board to hold key positions. Armored sentinels are just that: armored for maximum impact. Weapons start at 0 for multilasers, but you have the options for Heavy Flamers, Lascannons, Missile Launchers, or Plasma Cannons. And of course, the Sentinel Chainsaw. The chief job of a Sentinel is to be where your enemies really don’t want them to be, and to deliver damage with some of the same heavy weapons a Heavy Weapons Team might unleash. Harder than infantry, but softer than most vehicles, they fill the gaps.
Flyers include the Valkyrie, which can swap between infantry hunting, tank hunting, and can drop squads where you need them. It’s a fantastic unit for getting the job done.
Lastly, there are the Basilisks and other artillery. What can we say about a cannon that has 240 inch range? Point-for-point, Astra Militarum has some of the nastiest artillery in the game, between the Basilisk and the Manticore. Though a major criticism of that 240 inch range is that the basilisk is priced for a table size that no longer exists, and should be cheaper than it currently is in 9th edition.
Past a certain point, discussing the Astra Militarum would require discussing Forge World miniatures, which are a prestige line of miniatures used for specific tanks, flyers, and transports. As these are far, far more expensive than any other model you could deploy, and oftentimes, aren’t worth the effort.
On the other hand, there is the Tempestus Militarum, formerly known as the Storm Troopers. Deploying from airdrop, they’re powerful in a way that standard Guardsmen only dream of being. Their hotshot lasguns are superior for eliminating targets to regular lasguns, but have shorter range.
But the best range for the Tempestus Scions is up close and personal, with whatever special weapons seemed most relevant for the mission. While they do have their own codex options, they can be deployed with the Imperial Guard, no questions asked. Additionally, there’s now the Crusader vs. Bullgryn meta. Both are heavy units that can solve the flimsy melee problem of Imperial Guard Infantry, with weapons that would let them stand tough against Space Marine Terminators. Certain Ogryn bodyguards can just take hits for your commanders, who, squishy as they are, need all the help they can get.
The Astra Militarum is versatile, and no two armies will look alike, depending on the goal of the army in question. Your army can be a perfect expression of whatever bizarre planet you decided it came from. Prepare to have fun exploring your options. We’re focusing on the Cadians because in canon, a vast number of regiments throughout the Imperium are modeled after the Cadian army, and some of the most prevalent models available to you will be Cadian patterned.
THE CADIANS RELICS
- Dekker’s Auto-Vox Servo Skull: we heard you liked having more range for your Commanders giving orders. So, extend your range to 12 inches. Got a Vox unit nearby? Make that 72 inches. You have command of the battlefield.
- Gatekeeper: Replacing a Battlecannon, this 72 inch range cannon does extra damage to Chaos.
- Bastonne’s Sword: Named after a character from 5th edition who never actually received a model, this deadly sword also negates penalties for combat attrition tests out to 6 inches, replacing a power sword.
- Tactica Pax Cadia: An officer using a Stratagem pays 1 less CP to use once per round. You’ll be tossing around a lot of orders, making this a worthy choice.
CADIAN WARLORD TRAITS
- Steel Discipline: Got a Cadian performing an action within 6 inches of your warlord? Shoot without failing. Sometimes, you just need more shooting in your recommended daily action economy.
- Gifted Commander: General Creed hid a Baneblade behind a blade of grass. You aren’t as good, you explicitly can’t hide superheavy units. But you can redeploy 1 vehicle or 3 non vehicle units and redeploy them without having to spend CP. If you’ve ever wanted to drop a Lehman-Russ exactly where your enemies don’t want it, or put 90 conscripts exactly where they’d least expect it. Everyone’s a tough guy until Gifted Commander kicks them where they’d least expect it.
- Mind Like A Fortress (Aura): Roll a d6 any time someone would lose a wound due to a mortal wound during the Psychic phase if they’re within 6 inches of this warlord. On 5+, they’re fine. You have a 1 in 3 chance of rendering deadly Psyker attacks meaningless, and considering that most of the Astra Militarum’s enemies have ridiculous ruinous powers, that ain’t bad.
Astra Militarum Tactics
- Load-Fire-Reload: BIG TANK SHOOTS MORE SHOTS. And if they hit, the target can’t Overwatch or Set to Defend until the next round. For 1 CP, make that handy Lehman-Russ even handier during a rough battle!
- Never Give Up! Never Surrender!: For 2 CP, Give a Cadian unit the “Objective Secured” ability. Do you want your Tank to control an objective, an ability that normally only infantry can do? Consider it done. Do you want your force to secure, instead of merely contest an objective? It is accomplished. Checkmate your enemies with the raw power of the Imperial Guard! The Astra Militarum has spoken.
- CADIA STANDS!: For 1 CP, Pick an infantry unit. Any unmodified wound roll of 1 or 2 fails. No questions asked. No additional abilities can change that. Cadia Just Stands. And if the attack is Damage 1, add 1 to any armor saving throw against the attack. You cannot dislodge a group of angry Cadians. Remember: The Planet fell before the Imperial Guard did.
- Shock Troops: You move. You are considered to have Remained Stationary. Your Armor Penetration goes up by 1. And that means you can fire your weapons, no questions asked. Stack with First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire for best results. 1 CP for Infantry, 2 CP for anyone else, just move forward and wreck someone.
- Field Promotion: Nothing is worse than having your warlord die on you during a tense battle. Fortunately, for 1 CP, you can give someone a field promotion, making them your new warlord. The Astra Militarum has endless reserves, including warlords. Best used on a Company Commander or similar unit with the Voice of Command ability. Watch your enemy’s frustration as your new warlord functions identically to your old warlord, unleashing terrible orders and your Warlord Trait is back in play.
- Sanctioned Psyker: For 1 CP, before battle, apply to a Primaris Psyker or a Wyrdvane Psyker. They are now Cadian. They can benefit from regimental doctrine, but never gain a Warlord trait. You get 1 to Deny the Witch tests, and gain “Telepathic Order (Psychic Action – Warp Charge 4)”, and if successful, you get Voice of Command and can issue an order to any Cadian Infantry within 18 inches of the Psyker during the Shooting Phase. In short: you have another commander in your back pocket, and a powerful one.
- Whiteshields: 1-3 CP. The cost depends on how many Conscripts you have in your army, 1 to 2 is 1 CP, 3 to 4 is 2 CP, and 5 to 6 is 3 CP. Your conscripts get a leadership of 6, lose Raw Recruits, and get the Whiteshields keyword. The biggest problem with conscripts is that on a roll of 4+ against “Raw Recruits”, any orders you give them fail, and they can’t receive Orders for the rest of the turn, and their leadership of 4 means that giving them orders is a risky proposition in general. Suddenly, your 30 person conscript block no longer has either of those weaknesses anymore. A leadership of 6 means your orders might just get followed, and if you fail, you can still try again during the turn. In short: You can create the most lethal conscript blocks in the game. Everyone feels tough until a conscript block fires 60 lasgun shots from a successful “First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire.” And Whiteshields means that your Cadian Conscripts can probably pull it off.
The Astra Militarum Cadians are the regulars of the Imperium, the ordinary people swept up in the extraordinary events of the 41st Millenium. Your Imperial Guard will die hilariously horrific deaths, but by the Emperor, they will die standing! The Cadians never give up, and never surrender. If you want an army of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, you should play the Astra Militarum.