Heavy Weapons Squad
A few special Guardsmen are rewarded to become a Heavy Weapons Squad. Heavy weapons squads are given responsibility for their regiment's heaviest weapons and bolster the main battle line by providing close fire support. They are there where even a mass volley of light sticks prove too ineffective in killing the enemy. Thus, dedicated Heavy Weapon Teams are the Imperial Guard's answer to all those foes who prove invulnerable to massed Lasgun fire. Those soldiers who demonstrate an affinity with specialized weaponry are gathered together into squads within a heavy weapons company.
A heavy weapon squad is made up of three heavy weapons teams, each of which is composed of a gunner and loader, for six Guardsmen and three heavy weapons. They are trusted in providing suppressive fire and popping enemy tanks and fortifications. Placed under the command of an officer, a Heavy Weapons Squad boosts the firepower of individual squads, allowing them to engage enemy armored units or hold off alien hordes that outnumber them many times over.
All Heavy Weapons Squads are armed with standard issue equipment such as Flak armour, a Close Combat Weapon, Lasgun and Frag Grenades
Types of Heavy Weapons Squads
Heavy Weapons squads are further classified under one of three roles based on what they blam best:
Fire Support Squads
Fire Support Squads are HWS meant to suppress enemy infantry and destroy light vehicles. They are armed with Heavy Bolters or Autocannons and are tasked with unleashing a torrent of Dakka that would make even an Ork proud.
Anti-Tank Support Squads
These are the guys who make METAL BAWKSES cry. Anti-Tank Support Squads are armed with Lascannons or Missile Launchers. They offer longer range support than the Fire Support Squads and can snipe enemy armored columns like no one's business.
Mortar Support Squads
Mortar Support Squads are meant to shell and suppress enemy lines at far longer ranges. They are, as the name would imply, armed with mortars. The Death Korps are one of the most prominent users as it complements their trench warfare on Krieg (in other words, it looks WW1 enough for Krieg).
On the Tabletop
The Heavy Weapons Squads have become cheap in 8th edition. How cheap?
18 points for a three-team squad.
That's right, Eighteen points for three models. While this excludes their weapons, you still pay a token cost for the models themselves. And the weapons they can use doesn't do much to discourage their use:
- Mortars clock in at 33 points for a whole unit. This lets you drop a total of 3d6 S4 hits on distant units that you don't even have to see. This can evaporate entire blocks of infantry at once, and have the ensuing Morale test do the rest. Plonk them snugly into cover and let them rain down death.
- Heavy Bolters will set you back 42 points for a team. S5 AP-1 works against most infantry below MEQ and even the occasional medium-sized Tyranid unit. While you can get heaps of these from other sources like vehicles you should consider one thing: vehicles move, but Heavy Weapons Squads often don't. This gives you a more reliable source of fire since most of the IG has BS4+, and at their low cost you can really bring the quantity you need to make the shots count.
- Autocannons are more expensive at 63 for a full unit. While a Heavy2 S7 AP-1 D2 stat list seems imposing and capable of doing a lot of damage against larger targets, keep in mind that you hit only on BS4+ and your target's save won't be lowered too much. Landing two wounds from a full team's shooting is not very likely against most targets, and you'll need sustained fire or other support to take your target down.
- Missile Launchers are 78 points per team and allow for some great flexibility. Frag Missiles do as much damage as the Mortar does, but without the indirect fire. Krak Missiles hit at S8 AP-2 DD6, making them a bigger threat against larger targets. The key word for Missle Launchers is flexibility: they're kind of a mix between Mortars and Lascannons, but are not as good at the jobs that either of those do better.
- Lascannons cost 78 per team as well and they're the kings of tank hunting. S9 AP-3 DD6 will have you put holes in tanks on a regular basis, and given that most other Lascannons will be on moving vehicles they are your most accurate source of Lascannon fire.
Again to underline the cheapness: a single Wyvern Suppression Tank clocks in at 93 points with a 4D6 S4 AP0 weapon. For that cost you can field three Heavy Weapons Squads with Mortars for only six points more. Lascannons? Space Marines have to pay 65 points for 5 Devastators followed by 25 per Lascannon. For three Lascannons they get you can get three, the squad to use them and an additional squad with Lascannons and be 9 points under their cost. They're also the only option to use Missile Launchers in bulk and have Heavy Bolters that are actually usable instead of a cheapo weapon on your tanks. Also, NEVER forget that they have Lasguns as well: while the extra three shots at up to 24" are probably never going to do a lot of damage you can still fire them. Then there are the regimental doctrines, some of which are more useful for the squads:
- Armageddon is situational at best, giving you double shots with your Lasguns at 18".
- Cadian grants rerolls of 1s when shooting if you've been stationary all turn, and grans rerolls of misses when stacked with Take Aim. Excellent choice to handle the so-so BS of the teams.
- Catachan grants several things, of which only the increased Leadership when close to an officer is useful.
- Elysia grants the ability to deep strike without a transport, as well as a bonus +1 Leadership. Unfortunately, they lose a lot of their weapon options, only able to take Heavy Bolters, Missile Launchers and Mortars.
- Krieg, besides giving your teams +1 WS, Krak Grenades and the Cult of Sacrifice rule, also allows them to take Heavy Flamers. This radically shifts them from backline fire support to close range assault troops, perfect for packing into Valkyries.
- Mordian grants a nice +1 Leadership bonus, and the Overwatch bonus is useful only as a last resort.
- Tallarn specifically excludes Heavy Weapons, so it's pretty useless.
- Valhallan is useless, because if you suffered enough losses for this to be useful you'd lose your remaining squad anyway.
- Vostroyan adds 6" range to all your weapons, which is excellent for all of your guns, especially the Heavy Bolters.
As such, the Cadian doctrine is generally the best, followed by the Vostroyan one. Then there are the orders you can receive:
- Bring It Down! grants useful rerolls on your failed To Wound rolls. Always excellent.
- First Rank, Fire! Second Rank, Fire! is only useful if the enemy is close enough for your Lasguns.
- Fix Bayonets! means that your squad is in combat, which is bad news.
- Forwards, for the Emperor! lets you shoot when you have to move, which should be a last resort.
- Get Back in the Fight! grants shooting after Falling Back: if you somehow survived an assault it's a miracle.
- Move! Move! Move! prohibits you from shooting. This is always bad.
- Take Aim! lets you rerolls of 1 To Hit and best when paired with the Cadian doctrine.
Take Aim is the best of the lot because your BS4+ means that landing more shots will be better than getting rerolls on your To Wound rolls, especially paired with the Cadian doctrine. Then there's the regimental orders, listing only the good ones:
- Burn Them Out! (Catachan) takes away cover save bonuses, which is useful when the target is in hiding.
- Fire on My Command! (Valhallan) is not all that useful, since almost none of your units are meant to be in combat, and since you charge after shooting you'll likely not have many troops in combat. However, if you manage to destroy an enemy unit that's in combat with one of yours you can free it so that it can shoot without having to Fall Back. This works best when using weapons that likely won't wreck your tank. And no, you can't use this yourself.
- Form Firing Squad! (Mordian) is useful only when you have a character within 24", there's nothing else in the way and you think you can put them down with three Lasguns.
- Mount Up! (Armageddon) is surprisingly useful if you want to drive your teams around, but only then.
- Repel the Enemy! (Vostroyan) is a last-ditch effort to let you shoot if you got charged, because you likely won't live for very long anyway if you do get charged.
All in all, only the Catachan order is all-round useful for your squads.
While being dirt cheap, the Heavy Weapons Squads suffer from one very big problem: they are fragile. And not in the "only 1 wound and no 2+ save" way: T3, 5+ and 2 wounds is all you're getting. Basic infantry weapons pose a credible threat to you, and the touch of a single Heavy Bolter or equivalent weapon will really mess up your day. And once one team goes down you not only lose a third of your firepower, you are at risk of losing another team to the ensuing Morale check. Commissars do little to alleviate this, so do not bother. And while all but the Heavy Bolter have 48" range, if you can hit your enemy this also means that they can hit you. And any opponent worth their miniatures will take them out ASAP in order to not lose an important model to them. Overall, Heavy Weapons Squads are cheap to field but they require some serious protection to not keel over the first time they're hit.
When using Power Ratings the Heavy Weapons Squads sort of lose out on their best part: cheapness. While 3 points is still not a lot, they will cost you this regardless of whether you're using Lascannons or Mortars. While you'd think this allows for some cheap Lascannons, it also means that your Mortars are not cheaper. At this point it's probably better to take a Wyvern instead of two Mortar squads thanks to its durability and reroll on failed to wound rolls. The most expensive squads are a bit more viable, but still horrendously fragile.