Guardians aka Guardian Defenders are your basic Eldar boots on the ground. Every Eldar is given some military training and drill so that a militia can be formed if necessary to defend their craftworld. Guardians are those who are not currently walking the Path of the Warrior, but instead do something like baking or artistic flower arrangement. When the need arises, these civilians are called upon to serve as infantry as well as vehicle and starship crews.
Due to being the equivalent of disposable dogfood in a race that is clearly meant to be on the contrary, Guardians are equipped with very basic equipment, such as the Shuriken Catapult, and Mesh Armour for protection. Occasionally they could be armed with plasma grenades for anti-vehicle punch.
It's a mystery to many W40k players as to why Guardians still even exist in the board game, considering the Eldar race has been dying out for more than 10,000 years. The oft-repeated saying that "one Eldar life is worth more than a hundred thousand human lives" is being contradicted quite a lot by the fact that the lives of these ordinary Eldar citizens can so easily be thrown away.
On the other hand, the total military participation of the Eldar could just be that much less than the Imperium, and their tactics are generally highly coordinated, swift and deadly, tearing the oppositions throat out and dissapearing as needed. Despite how nonsensical it seems with them using short ranged, lightly armoured militia as their primary infantry, the Eldar minimize unnecesary casualties more than anyone other than maybe the Tau or the most reasonable Astartes. Besides that, even if the Eldar are in heavy decline, fewer Eldar means fewer Aspect Warriors, and a more dire need for the use of Guardians, even if they SHOULD be better equipped.
Black Guardians are special chaps in that they act more like a reserve military force rather then a civilian militia or national defense force. Exclusive to Craftworld Ulthwé, these guys are the Elfdar equivalent of the Imperial Guardsmen Infantry Squad in the same way that normal Guardians are the equivalent of the local Planetary Defence Force. Because the Path of the Seer is the longest and most dangerous Eldar Path, and because Ulthwé relies especially on its Seers, this leaves little time for its denizens to tread the Warrior Path.
They are more highly trained compared to standard Guardians, as previously mentioned, but are arranged in a similar manner, consisting of both Defender and Storm units as well as crewing heavy weapons and light vehicles. They are called Black Guardians cos their armor is painted black (Gee! Who would of thought!?). Although official fluff material states that it is to symbolize the Eldar color of mourning, for the frequent attacks it has suffered passing close to the Eye of Terror (even though the Eldar colour of mourning is white). We in /tg/ state otherwise... in that it is just GeeDubs trying to make the Elfdar look super edgy and goth. Tactically, they make heavy use of the Webway which allows them to appear anywhere on the battlefield, seemingly emerging from nowhere.
Black Guardians sometimes offer their services to other Eldar races, most predominantly the Harlequins, in exchange for guarantees of future support.
Role on the battlefield
For the most part Eldar Guardians only take to the field in the most dire of events when the Aspect warriors just aren't enough to win the day. The Craftworlds would rather not put the civilians they are supposed to protect into harm's way, which means that Guardians generally function in support roles on the battlefield.
Most Guardians have never walked the Path of the Warrior and so have not developed their own War Mask. Therefore before they enter battle they will gather together for a seer to cast a temporary Mask over the group to protect them from the horrors they are about to experience. At first glance it might seem rather strange that Eldar are so sensitive to violence, but keep in mind that Eldar are more sensitive to ALL emotions and experiences than humans are, so naturally the shock (or thrill) of a battlefield in the 41st millennium is quite enough to mandate the additional aid.
Guardians will often be led by a Warlock who will try their best to keep as many of them alive as possible.
When taken as a whole this civilian fighting force can enter battle with the very best their enemies can muster and still have a decent chance of coming out victorious (unless they feature in a black library book, in which case be prepared to watch them charging head first into terminators, and getting mowed down in their thousands).
Despite the violent galaxy that they find themselves, Eldar fighting numbers upon the battlefield are acutely very small; an Aspect host of Warriors number only around thirty warriors in total. When taking part in a larger planet or system wide conflict an Eldar Warhost will contain multiple Aspect Host's, however even though they will be more then a match for most enemy forces, who will almost always outnumber them by insane amounts, sometimes the dedicated warriors of the Craftworlds are simply not enough to turn the tide, it is in these times that the Battlehosts of Eldar civilian soldiers are called upon to take up arms.
Upon the battlefield a battlehost normally numbers up to 90 Guardians separated into nine squads. The First six can be deployed on Jetbikes or Wave Serpents, or be combined into larger twenty guardian squads. The other three are normally responsible for operating the Grav-tanks, War walkers, Vypers and artillery batteries. Battlehosts can be made up enterally of Jetbikes, War walkers, Grav-tanks, Vypers or artillery batteries when needed.
Compared to the seemingly endless waves of Orks and Tyranids or even the teeming millions of easily replicable Imperial Guardsmen, these numbers seem almost pathetically small, but even so, the Battlehosts of the Craftworlds continue prove themselves against the very worst the galaxy can throw at them, and still emerge victories regardless.
On the Tabletop
Like most Eldar on the tabletop, Guardians are physically weak and fragile (at least compared to other Xenos and SPESS MAHREENS) but mobile. Unlike most Eldar, they don't have a specialized role— this is a problem in an army that is all about specialization.
The usual armament for a Guardian Defender is a Shuriken Catapult. It is assault 2, has bolter strength and AP, and possesses a neat ability called Bladestorm that is basically a weaker version of Rending. Unfortunately, these guns have a pathetic range of 12". This is another problem, as 12" is exactly charge distance, and is also exactly rapid-fire range for many enemy weapons. To round out their equipment Guardians also have Plasma Grenades (STR 4, AP-1, Grenade D6, Blast) and wear Mesh Armour for a 5+ save.
Historically, if you are an Eldar player who needs a unit to hang back and defend an objective, a squad of Guardians has probably been your go-to choice. Ideally your Guardians should still be used in a mobile fashion (after all, being a defensive threat is not the same thing as being a potato), because when used to close a gap in the line or to contest an objective Guardians can do a pretty decent job of warding enemies off with the threat of very killy dakka if they get too close. Of course, the Eldar also have access to very fast, tough jetbikes that can have even more firepower than Guardians for only a marginal increase in cost (why aren't you using them instead?), or Dire Avengers, a type of Aspect Warrior who are basically Guardians++, with heavier armor, a gun with 50% more range, and access to an Exarch with neat powers and a sword that can insta-gib pesky champions or leader units in melee. Even so, between Psyker support and Guardian-centered stratagems, in 8th/9th edition they can be buffed to be surprisingly durable, with a 4+ Invulnerable save from Celestial Shield that Warlocks can boost to a 3+, and a 5/6++ Feel No Pain, if Farseers are also involved or if part of an Ulthwe army.
However, 9th edition brought in some core gameplay changes that Guardian Defenders didn't take too kindly to. First, the increase to 10 points each is nothing less than a slap in the face to Eldar players. However, the thing that kills them are the changes to unit cohesion and the addition of blast weapons. With unit sizes of 6 or more requiring each model to be within 2" of two other models in their unit, conga-lining Guardians to bubblewrap your backline or characters is a thing of the past. Poorly positioning your guardians can result in a chain reaction of models being lost from cohesion checks even if only a single guardian actually died earlier in the round. Blast Weapons are also extremely effective against even an MSU guardian squad, since they'll always generate a minimum of 3 hits on any squad with 6 or more models. If players (foolishly) decide to take the heavy weapon platform and put the number of models in the squad up to 11, then all blast weapons always generate the highest possible number of hits they'd be capable of (a 2d6 Blast weapon will automatically generate 12 hits). With the pitiful toughness and armor saves guardians have, having the entire squad get blown out of existence from just a few blast attacks is a very likely outcome. They still do have access to the potential durability afforded to them through psyker/stratagem support, but that'll only get you so far as the new edition's power creep continues continues to grow.
That being said, Guardian Defenders can still make for a surprisingly potent offensive presence in spite of their modest wargear. Utilizing stratagems, Craftworld armies can deep-strike up to two units of Guardians within 9 inches of an enemy unit. In theory, this is well within range of their Shuriken Catapults (in practice, it might be tricky to ensure that all those models are deploying within shooting distance). However, if you can pull this off with two maximum sized blocks of Guardians, that makes for a grand total of 80 shuriken shots coming out of practically nowhere. Even if those shots are only S4 with conditional AP, most standard units of infantry and even some lighter vehicles won't be able to shrug off that much dakka. With 8th and 9th Editions also conferring split fire, you're free to divide up all 80 of those shots among a selection of targets and avoid overkilling the bejesus out of just one unit.
If you are really, really intent on buffing Shuriken weapons, Phoenix Rising did offer several custom Craftworld attributes near the end of 8th Edition that can achieve this. Of these, Superior Shurikens (add 4" to the range of any Shuriken weapon) and Masterful Shots (a target hit by Shuriken weapons does not receive a save bonus for being in cover) are probably the best options.
As previously mentioned, for every 10 guardians you can take a Heavy Weapon Platform for additional firepower:
- Shuriken Cannon: A low-cost, reasonably effective supplement to any squad's basic firepower. It is also the only Assault weapon in the bunch, so it is ideal for squads that you expect to be moving around a lot. Because they count as Heavy, all the other weapons listed here don't have the best synergy with shuriken catapults. This is because they encourage an otherwise short-ranged, highly mobile squad to either stay still or suffer a -1 to-hit penalty to the HWP's attack. And to be fair, you might be ok with that - but on paper, the Shuriken Cannon is probably your most flexible option.
- Scatter Laser: The long range GEQ hunter, this cheap option does offer some utility for objective holding Guardians who expect to face larger numbers of infantry.
- Starcannon: The Starcannon has been gibbing MEQs since 3rd Edition. If that's what you need, it's hard to go wrong here.
- Bright Lance: The Bright Lance is pretty good at mucking up enemy monsters and vehicles.
- Aeldari Missile Launcher: An expensive, but flexible option for Guardians you expect to be in the back lines.
|Forces of the Harlequins|
|Command:||High Avatar - High Warlock |
Shadowseer - Solitaire
|Troops:||Black Guardian - Death Jester - Master Mime |
Mime - Troupe Master - Trouper - Warlock
|Vehicles:||Black Guardian War Walker - Black Guardian Vyper |
Jetbike - Skyweaver - Starweaver
Venom - Voidweaver
|Allies:||Dark Eldar - Eldar|