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 roused and serve as infantry as well as vehicle and starship crews.
Like most Eldar on the table top, 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—a problem in an army that is all about specialization. They have the luxury of choosing their own role to play but cannot do so very effectively; often it is better to take a unit that can perform a specific role well over the generalist Guardians.
The usual armament for an Eldar Guardian is a Shuriken Catapult. It is assault 2, has bolter strength and AP, and a neat ability called Bladestorm that is basically a weaker version of Rending. Unfortunately these guns have a pathetic range of 12". This is a problem, as most dedicated assault infantry can charge that distance and will destroy guardians in close combat, while most infantry weapons can Rapid Fire at that range, shredding guardians with their low toughness and weak armor. Khaine help you if you face Fire Warriors, who can Rapid Fire from beyond ranges you can even reach. So you want to think carefully before moving Guardians into close range.
Usually you won't be taking Guardians to kill things—you'll want them sitting in cover or on an objective, warding things off with the threat of very killy dakka if they get close. The Eldar 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.
On the other hand, Guardians can take a Warlock who has access to a sweet sword and a variety of psychic powers which are mostly good for defense, and can purchase weapon platforms for some long-range firepower (though taking a heavy weapon invalidates the firepower of the rest of the squad due to their short range). The squad size is also two times larger than Dire Avengers and the largest among any in the Eldar codex, useful for when you really need a lot of relatively cheap, short range firepower. Twenty Guardians can lay waste to pretty much anything if they can reach it. Considering all of this, you will have to decide whether it is better to conscript all your citizens into a horde of fragile, short ranged soldiers, or to build your own aspect warrior Swordwind and let the specialized rainbow fly.
It's a mystery to many W40k players that have even a fragment of interest for the lore 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. One would assume that at this point all Eldar would already be walking the Path of the Warrior or Exile or Seer.
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/ states 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 services to other Eldar races, most predominantly the Harlequins, in order to get additional firing support and backup, just in case things go pear-shaped.
Role on the battle field
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 harms way, leading to Guardians taking up a more supportive role upon the battle field.
Most Guardians have never walked the path of the warrior and so have not developed their own War Mask, so 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.
Guardians will normally be led to war by a Warlock who will try their best to keep as many of them alive as they can.
Offensively the normal Guardians are armed with shuriken catapults, plasma grenades and an Eldar version of a combat Knife. They are also accompanied by at least two anti-gravity heavy weapon platforms that float around like Tau drones; adding some much needed fire power.
Defensively Guardian armour isn't much to write home about but they still have a few neat ways to get around this issue. Warlocks can seriously add some much needed defensive potential through their psychic powers, they also have Celestial shields that create a protective energy shield that covers the whole group whilst still allowing them to move freely. Although they would rather fight on the move, when taking up a stationary position they can set up a wraithbone energy shield (DOW2), that creates a half moon shaped energy shield that can protect the Guardians from a chosen direction.
In their role as a support force they are also in charge of the eldar Support Batterys, War Walkers, Windriders and piloting the many Eldar vehicles of war.
When taken as a whole this civilian fighting force can still 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).
On the Tabletop
Guardians in 8th edition perform rather well as objective holders, as their naturally robust squad sizes combined with the fire support of a HWP can discourage GEQ and MEQ targets from trying to contest your points. Between psyker support and Guardian-centered stratagems, they can also become shockingly 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.
Also, despite their namesake, Guardian Defenders can make for a surprisingly potent offensive presence in spite of their bog-standard wargear. Utilizing stratagems, Craftworld armies can deep-strike up to two units of Guardians within 9 inches of an enemy unit; easily within range of their Shuriken Catapults. Doing this with two maximum sized blocks of Guardians makes for a grand total of 80 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 Edition 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.
For their heavier fire support, every 10 guardians can tote along a Heavy Weapon Platform to not only pop off an odd shot here or there, but to also act as a semi-reliable bullet sponge.
- Shuriken Cannon: For Guardians on the move, who still want to contribute something that hits a little harder and farther than their pea shooters.
- Scatterlaser: The long range GEQ hunter, this cheap option is great on objective holding Guardians who expect to face larger numbers of infantry.
- Starcannon: The reasonably priced MEQ gibber, which is great for either softening up a unit for the rest of your guardians to pick at, or finishing off weakened units.
- Bright Lance: Another weapon that's ideal on objective holding squads, the Bright Lance is perfect for trying to muck up enemy monsters or vehicles. Is kind of inefficient on Guardian Defenders though, given the 85 point tax you're going to be paying along side it.
- Aeldari Missile Launcher: An expensive, but wonderfully flexible option for Guardians you expect to be in the back lines. While being able to threaten a wide variety of targets is nice, taking this option maximizes the cost of your Guardians and may be impractical for lower point games.
|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|