From Warhammer 40K. The Imperial Guard, rank-and-file of the Imperium. While it is usually the way-cool Space Marines that are mentioned when discussing the armed forces of the Imperium, it is really the Guard that holds it together. Every Imperial world is required to give some soldiers from its militia to the Guard as part of its tithe to the Imperium. While there are countless guardsmen and regiments, the number that Games Workshop throws out is somewhere in the billions, and likely very high therein. This allows for untold variety in an Imperial Guard army. While they have a few pre-defined worlds and regiments the sheer immensity of the galaxy allows for a player to make up an army from whatever he/she chooses.

The Imperial Guard is the closest thing 40K has to a World War II-era army. A whole lot of infantry, a few special teams (snipers, heavy weapons, demolition...), a whole bunch of tanks, and even some cavalry. The reason this makes a Guard army interesting is that due to the number of possibilities and worlds, two armies with the exact same point value can be completely different. Unfortunately, I cannot provide statistics, not because of copyright worries, but my Imperial Guard codex and Catachan codex are at home, and I'm not. However, I can provide a lot of detail to some of the more popular worlds and units.

Worlds of the Imperium

Without going into too much detail, because there is way more background than can reasonably be added here, there are a few standard worlds that come to mind when thinking of the Imperial Guard. There's Cadia, Catachan, Mordia, Valhalla, Tallara, and thanks to Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts, Tanith. There are all very important hive worlds, forge worlds, death worlds, or dead worlds. Each world listed above has a large amount of history written for it, but all that matters is what effect they have on their population and those who join the guard.

The following only tells how these regiments normally appear in the guard, not how the rules state they must.

Cadia is a world right near the Eye of Terror which is a huge rift between normal space and the warp. If that's news to you then I suggest you read the Warhammer 40,000 rulebook to figure out the basics of what all this means. Cadia is right at an area called the Cadian Gate which is something the Traitor Legions of the Chaos Space Marines love to attack. They are under nearly constant attack in some form or another, thus Cadia has a lot of good shock troops and heavy weapons teams as well as a solid Guard presense. Cadians are good for a nice well-structured army and some good support pieces.

Catachan is the most famous death world, and has some of the most fearsome warriors in the Guard. Catachan is basically a giant jungle and contains so many things that would love to kill people that it is said the average person is proficient with firearms by age three or they're dead. Catachans love to sneak around junsles and are usually lightly armed with standard lasguns or flamers. However, they have some great stealth units and their snipers are great for picking off that annoying enemy commander. If you're into the sneaky bastard tactics, Catachans would be a good choice, but they have little to no heavy support, and not tanks except Chimeras to move troops around.

Mordia is a hive world with an outstanding military tradition. The Mordian Iron Guard are some of the most stalwart and steadfast soldiers in the entire Guard. Most Mordian armies I've seen have had a good backbone of normal troops with a nice variety of heavy weapons and tanks. What they may lack in subtlety they more than make up for in firepower. Definately fun to play and they look cool too.

Valhalla is basically a world coated by ice, meaning it is "balls cold" as Slim would say. These guys are really cool looking. They have the Russian trench-coat and huge furry hat thing down. These guys are the coolest to see when a master crafter puts them together. Seeing their tanks with a bunch of white flock so they look snow-covered is a great thing. I've only really seen them appear as a tank and troops army, they have some troops, some tanks but no real specialty units.

Tallara is the antithesis of Valhalla, it is a desert world. These guys are where you really see the cavalry, Tallarn Rough Riders are a pretty scary thing if you're not carefull. I've seen this one as another tank and troops army, but they almost always have the Rough Riders, it would be sacreligious not to take them, I think.

The last world in the brief tour is Tanith, which was completely wiped out by Chaos. The only survivors are the Tanith First-and-Only led by Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt, earning them the moniker Gaunt's Ghosts. Tanith was a peculiar world where trees would uproot and relocate themselves so pathfinding became very difficult. It is for this reason that the Tanith are perhaps the finest scouts in the Imperial Guard. Right now they exist only as a boxed set that has some of the main characters but I find they suppliment a Catachan Deathworld Army quite well.

There are also other factions like the Steel Legion, but I don't know too much about them so I leave it to a more knowledgeable source for their writeup.

So how do I decide what army I want? There's so much to choose from.

This is entirely up to you, based on how you want to play. The standard troop choice for each army is mostly the same, same equipment and statistics, some may have special abilities, but no matter who you play these unfortunate souls will bear the brunt of agression. I recommend that unless you're playing a low point game with a specialist army (not recommended for beginners) that you get a nice healty core of these, I'd say 4 - 8 squads of ten so you have a nice force to work with.

No matter what kind of amry you want, even a Deathworld Army, which I won't cover here because it's for more advanced and experienced players, heavy weapons are a must. The problem here is that unlike Space Marines, a Guardsman is only human and thus needs a partner to carry around ammunition. For most games that only means that it takes two hits to knock out a heavy weapon, because the ammo carrier is always hit first and isn't needed to keep firing. I definately recommend heavy bolters and auto cannons, they make great offensive weapons. I'd keep at least one lascannon and missile launcher in reserve in case you need to cover a strategic withdrawl, they have good range and can play hell with overzealous infantry and tanks. If you have tanks with a lascannon take another missile launcher instead. Note that you can take as many as you want, but they cut down on other areas.

For assault troops I'd take some Stormtroopers or Shock Troops, they're a bit tougher than the standard lineman and have some good equipment if you can afford the points]. I'd also get either cavalry or sentinel. Cavalry look cool and add a nice archaic flavor, but Sentinels are great in a pinch. Get some with lascannons and some with heavy flamers and close combat weapon. These will let you stand against armor or light infantry without too much trouble, and they are fast. A nice Hellhound flametank is great for dealing with those damnable Chaos Cultists.

Elites, come to think of it, this is probably where you have to get Stormtroopers from. Some ogryns might be nice, they're tough as all hell and deal out some nice punishment. Ratling Marksmen are good is you can't get Catachan snipers. What I'd really go for is one or two Veteran Squads, they are worth their weight in gold!! While especially useful in the DWA, anyone can benefit from the experience of these grizzled vets. Get these guys going and they can even mix it up with Chaos Space Marines, which only crazy troops would even dream of. Well worth the investment, even if they cut down on some prettier toys.

HQ. No way out of this one. I'd have a Captain with as many assault weapons as you can get and a veteran sergeant, that'll keep the man safe. If you're starting out, take a Commissar, they can be a pain in the ass, but they can also turn the tide of battle if used correctly. If making a DWA, avoid at all costs, the attrition rate among commissars in a Deathworld Army is atrocious, which is covered in the rules. I've lost more commissars to my own troops than to enemy fire.

Special Characters are entirely up to you. They add a lot, but also cost a lot and can really only be used in large games. They also depend on whether both sides of a game agree upon them, so I leave this one up to you. The best thing to do would be to look at them all after you've made an army and played a few games. Get your army to where you need it and then see what, if any, applicable characters compliment your style. However, if you're really lost Lord Commander Solar Macharius and his guard make a nice centerpice for a display.

The last thing that I can really say is don't forget tanks! Troops are slow, but a squad with its own Chimera Transport is a miniature rapid-deployment force. Leman Russ tanks are a great core of tanks if you're lost. Get what sounds good for the way you play. Most of all, don't forget, if you find a gap in your lineup it is very easy to fill in. The Imperial Guard has almost endless possibilities for army configurations, and they keep getting more. I'm sure this is outdated by now, so if you see an error or a gap please /msg me and I will fix it right away.

The Imperial Guard may seem weak when you first look at it, but when it's up to strength, it is a force to be reckoned with. A nice guard force under the command of a good player is something both beautiful and terrible.

With new 40K stuff coming out this writeup will likely be under construction for a long time, so please either send me suggestions or add to this on your own. I have no doubt there is something I overlooked. I also apologive for typos or spelling errors, but I've been staring at this text for a long time so they are inevitable, if you could please let me know of any you find without telling me how stupid I am, I'd be very happy.

All of this information is from either the Warhammer 40,000 Third Edition rulebook, Codex: Imperial Guard, Codex: Catachans, or the Games Workshop website.