Leman Russ Tactica.
(This post was created in 2013 for 6th edition 40k but was updated in July 2016 in anticipation of 8th)
Who doesn’t love the Leman Russ Battle Tank!?
It’s not only one of the most iconic tanks in the 40k universe it’s one of the most powerful too, so while Imperial Guard infantry might not scare many people, any potential opponent had better respect the big guns.
The model has hardly changed at all since the plastic kit first came along and pretty much any Astra Militarum Collection will contain at least one Leman Russ. Most will contain several, mine for example contains over 30! (These ones are not mine)
So here are my thoughts and musings on the different patterns of Leman Russ Available in the current Codex. I’ll go through them one by one, commenting on what I feel are their individual strengths and weaknesses, as well as my perceptions from having played with them on the table top.
It’s not an exhaustive list by any means.
The Leman Russ Battle Tank: A general overview.
Before I look at the different variants it’s worth commenting on the features that all Leman Russ share. I’ve just picked the main points, there are more mundane comparisons, such as the way they look, the slots they fill in the Codex etc, that are not going to talked about here.
- Survivability: This is by far the Leman Russ’ greatest selling point for me. With 3 Hull Points (HP) and an armour value of 14 on the front, only Armourbane, Melta and Strength 9/10 weapons can realistically wreck you in a single hit; and most of those need to get close to do the damage, if not into close combat. Concentrated firepower will probably take one out through Glancing hits alone if you’re caught in the open, but factoring in a cover save I would argue that the Leman Russ can take similar punishment to a Land Raider, which is not something to be sniffed at. Most opponents are going to be wasting their best and most powerful weapons shooting at your ‘damage sponges’ than at your weaker and more vulnerable transports or artillery.
- Cost: Leman Russ tanks are cheap, ranging from 150 points for the standard model through to 190 for an Executioner. Sponsons vary between 20 and 40 points and should always be chosen to compliment the main armament of the vehicle, if at all. Even with upgrades like Extra Armour, Storm Bolters and Hunter-Killer Missiles (HKMs) it’s rare to push the points of a single Leman Russ above 200. Because the rest of the Codex is so cheap I tend to lose perspective and think of some variants as being over-priced. I’m wrong, they’re a bargain and don’t forget it!
- Versatility: There are 7 ‘Codex’ variants to choose from; each with its own strengths and weaknesses. All can take 3 different Hull-Mounted Weapons and 4 different Sponson options. I won’t ‘math-hammer’ it, but I think there are well over 100 different combinations of weapon configuration available so it doesn’t matter what you face, if you keep your kits interchangeable (a bit of fiddling around with the weapon mounts) you’ll have a tank to deal with every opponent.
- Speed: It might be odd to mention this here, but the 6’ movement of a Leman Russ is, I feel, one of its most underrated benefits, as is the ‘Heavy’ special rule. There are three main reasons for this.
- Being broadly the same speed as your infantry means you will never be tempted to outrun them and race ahead. Imperial Guardsmen die when unsupported, and having a whacking great big tank backing them up (and providing them with cover) makes them a much tougher prospect to firefight with.
- Because they don’t move very far (if they move at all) your enemy will have a hard time getting behind you, even with Deep Strike or Flyers available. All Russes have a rear AV of 10/11 so they are most vulnerable from behind: even a concentrated round of Bolter fire will knock one of action if you’re not careful with your placement.
- Being slow you’re much less likely to find yourself in the dreaded 12’’/6’’ Melta range thorough your own fault. Lance and Gauss Weapons will still cause problems, but cover is your friend when facing Eldar and Necrons. There’s no shame in staying in one spot where it’s tactically convenient to do so, even if you’re taunted mockingly by your opponent for doing it.
Perhaps the biggest downside of being very slow is that once you’re in charge range you’re never going to get out of it again. Your best bet if you survive the initial hits is to reverse the full 6’’ and fire everything into the squad you’ve just escaped. You’re unlikely to avoid getting charged again, but the ‘run away and blast them’ tactic seems more prudent than tank-shock in most situations.
- Squadrons: On the face of it this is a great rule, but actually I find it rather overrated. The reason is that all models have to target the same enemy unit. Because each Leman Russ has a specific role I often find that if I ‘squad’ different patterns together one tank ends up doing all the work while the other does very little, but if you squad the same patterns together it ends up being overkill, especially the patterns that use Blast type weaponry. To give an example for the layman, a Leman Russ Punisher/Exterminator is great at killing Monstrous Creatures, or flyers, but a Vanquisher or Eradicator is essentially useless at it. I can’t think of a situation where you would want them to shoot the same target. Similarly, if I take two identical patterns of Leman Russ tank I find that while one is sufficient to severely hurt/destroy whatever I shoot at, but the second is often just ‘overkill’. I used to field two Demolishers, but always found that the second one was only ever firing at 2 or 3 models, the rest had perished in the first blast.
So in summary the Leman Russ is a must-have addition to any force. They’re cheap, hard to kill and provide your troops with much-needed muscle. I try to take one for roughly every 750pts in my army (minimum!) but this is by no means a set rule and people often take more. You can fit 4 or 5 into a 1500 point game quite comfortably and at a push get 6 or 7 in!
In the next part I’ll look at the individual variants more closely. I’ve grouped them into categories, with the first three (Standard/Battle, Demolisher and Vanquisher) being “The old school”; those Leman Russes that have been around since the beginning.
The next three will be the “All-rounders”, tanks with multiple roles, true versatility or which are just good at everything.
The final is “The Specialists” and includes the Executioner who gets a category all of his own and a brief mention of the Leman Russ tanks we’ve said goodbye to this Codex, like the Annihilator and the Conqueror.
That’s all for now, the rest will come shortly.