Astra Militarum – Tank Commander

Posted: April 28, 2014 by The Master of the Adeptus Administratum in Expansions, Forgeworld, Hobby, Rules, Tactica
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As Imperial Guard players transition to the new Astra Militarum codex, while much may seem the same, many things have changed.  I’ll be posting a series of articles about some of the units which have seen changes and hopefully provide some insights, tactics, and general information about how the unit has evolved.


Next up: Tank Commander

History:  Tank Commanders are not a new thing in the 40k universe.  They have been part of the Forgeworld Armoured Battle Group since they first began publishing the Imperial Armour series of books.  Since then, we’ve encountered them in various other Forgeworld books and even in White Dwarf 294 in the article written by Pete Haines, Jervis Johnson, & Graham McNeill back in the summer of 2004 – at the start of 4th edition.  So, for those veterans of the hobby, the Tank Commander can be seen as a nod to the past, and with its inclusion in the new Astra Militarum book it has finally become a fixture in a present mainstream GW codex.

Of course, a BS4 Leman Russ is nothing new for those familiar with the previous Codex: Imperial Guard (IG).  Players have undoubtedly crossed paths with the Knight Commander Pask special character, and in the new Codex: Astra Militarum (AM) he is available an upgrade to the regular Tank Commander.

In my previous article Astra Militarum – Exterminator I also touched upon the BS 4 Leman Russ Exterminator that the Space Wolves had available to them in their previous codex, so a BS4 AV14 Leman Russ is not something new to the 40k scene.

The Tank Commander is now an HQ choice for an Astra Militarum army.  When you choose the Tank Commander, they must be taken as part of a Leman Russ Squadron.  This Squadron is selected from the Leman Russ Squadron entry in the Heavy Support section of the codex, but counts as an HQ choice.  This allows players to use the Heavy Support force org slots for other units, or even more Leman Russ tanks.  The Tank Commander gives his tank BS 4, and he can be the army’s Warlord.  Tank Commanders also have access to their own unique orders which they can use for their squadron.


Points:  Tank Commanders are a 30 point HQ choice, but this is in addition to the points spent on their Leman Russ squadron.  They can be placed in any of the Leman Russ tanks found in their HS unit entry, but there must be at least one additional tank in the squadron making the squadron from 2-3 tanks in total.  The Tank Commander can be further upgraded to the Knight Commander Pask special character which is an additional 40 points.

Stat line:  Tank Commanders including Knight Commander Pask have a BS of 4.  The Leman Russ tank they command uses their Ballistic Skill for all shooting attacks and is considered as a character.  This means that shots from their tanks can be precision shots as with other characters.

Wargear:  Tank Commanders do not have access to any Wargear, but their own Leman Russ and those in their squadron retain their Wargear as listed in the Leman Russ Squadron unit entry.

Special Rules: The Leman Russ Commander rule details how the character is integrated with the Leman Russ Squadron.  Much of this has already been mentioned in other parts of this article, but it is important to note that if the Tank Commander’s Leman Russ is Wrecked or suffers an Explodes! result, the Tank Commander is killed.

The Tank Orders rule allows the Tank Commander to give three different orders to his Squadron in a similar fashion to other Officers.  When giving an order roll 2D6 and if the total is 9 or less one of the following orders is executed:

  • ‘Full Throttle!’ – The Tank Squadron moves Flat Out at a distance of 6+D6.  This is the only way a Leman Russ tank can move more than 6″ in a turn as it overrides the Heavy Rule.
  • ‘Gunners, Kill on Sight!’ – The Squadron makes a shooting attack with the Tank Commander’s tank shooting at a different unit than the rest of the tanks in the platoon.  The Tank Commander’s vehicle has its shooting resolved before the remainder of the squadron and the remainder of the squadron then resolves its shooting but cannot target a unit forced to disembark as a result of the Tank Commander’s initial shooting attack.
  • ‘Strike and Shroud!’ – After the Tank Commander’s squadron resolves its shooting attack all vehicles in the squadron must use their smoke launchers if they haven’t already done so.

NOTE:  Tank Orders are different from the orders in the Codex which are covered by the Voice Of Command rule.  As such, they are not subject to the Inspired Tactics or Incompetent Command rules associated with Voice of Command.

Options:  Tank Commanders must take a Leman Russ and must include 1-2 other Leman Russ tanks and may take vehicle upgrades as normal.  One Tank Commander in the army may be upgraded to the Knight Commander Pask special character.


The Tank Commander is a solid choice for an Astra Militarum force.  For a mere 30 points, you can have a better BS 4 Leman Russ and access to some unique orders to give their Leman Russ Squadron additional flexibility, survivability, and mobility.  Another consideration is that a Warlord which is a Leman Russ within a squadron of Leman Russ tanks may give up Victory Points for Slay The Warlord in missions less easily than other HQ units.

When the Tank Commander is the Warlord, only three of the six warlord traits in the codex are available on the table when rolling to determine the Warlord Trait and the Tank Commander cannot choose to roll on any other Warlord Trait table.

After outlining their abilities we’ll now look at what will be a very important part of your Tank Commander – their tank.

Let’s separate the Leman Russ’ into two categories.  The ones with blast markers and the ones without.

Leman Russ’ with Blast Markers”

  • Leman Russ Battle Tank – 72″, S8, AP3, Ordnance, 5″ Blast
  • Leman Russ Eradicator – 36″, S6, AP4, 5″ Blast
  • Leman Russ Demolisher – 24″ S10, AP2, Ordnance, 5″ Blast
  • Leman Russ Executioner – 36″, S7, AP2, 3″ Blast, Heavy 3, Gets Hot!

Leman Russ’ without Blast Markers:

  • Leman Russ Exterminator – 48″, S7, AP4, Heavy 4, Twin-Linked
  • Leman Russ Vanquisher – 72″, S8, AP2, Heavy 1, Armourbane
  • Leman Russ Punisher – 24″, S5, AP -, Heavy 20

It is a relatively simple exercise to crunch some numbers are realize that Leman Russ tanks which feature weapons with blast markers are not pin-point accurate.  In fact, the chance of a blast marker generating a HIT result or one that scatters 0″ at BS3 is only about 39% and with BS4 is just over 44%.

With a tolerable scatter of up to 2″ (large blast will still touch the intended target point) the odds improve to just shy of 52% at BS 3 and at just over 61% at BS4.  Ballistic skill correction certainly is a significant contributor to helping make these shots count, as without BS correction the chance of rolling a HIT on the scatter die is only 2 in 6 or 33%.

So, when dealing with blast markers we see an accuracy improvement of about 5-10% when going from BS 3 to BS 4.  In contrast, when we look at the basic BS3 to BS4 improvement for other shooting this becomes an over 16% increase in performance.

Note that when shooting a non-blast weapon, a miss will always be a miss.  Blast markers have the advantage that they can scatter onto other potential targets.  Another advantage of blast markers is that casualties from their shots can be taken even from models that are not in line of sight to the firer.

For the non-blast weapon tanks available, at BS 4 the Exterminator Autocannon would have each of its shots hit at close to an 89% chance thanks to being twin-linked.  The Vanquisher cannon would be seeing a 25% increase in the rate at which it hits (4 times in 6, up from 3 times in 6), and the Punisher would have an average expected increase of three hits from its main gun (13 up from 10).

Each tank has something unique to offer which will be augmented further by the tank commander’s increased ballistic skill.



Upgrading the Tank Commander to Knight Commander Pask for an additional 40 points makes Pask more expensive than in the previous codex (a net 20 point increase), and is further increased due to the requirement to add at least one more tank to form the squadron.

The rules for Pask have also changed.  Previously when his tank did not move on a turn that it fired, the tank could re-roll failed to-wound rolls when firing at monstrous creatures, and +1 to Armour Penetration rolls when shooting at vehicles.  These rules have been replaced with the Crack Shot rule, allowing re-rolls for Armour Penetration rolls against vehicles and an additional perk for his tank’s turret weapon:

  • Battlecannon, Vanquisher battle cannon, Demolisher siege cannon, or Eradicator nova canon: Can re-roll To Hit rolls.
  • Exterminator Autocannon or Punisher gatling cannon: these weapons gain the Rending special rule.
  • Executioner Plasma Cannon: May instead fire the weapon with the following profile:  36″ S7 AP2 Heavy 1, Large Blast, Blind, Get’s Hot.

Knight Commander Pask like other Tank Commanders can be selected as the Warlord and has a specific Warlord Trait Old Grudges which gives him and his unit Preferred Enemy to a specific codex.  Preferred enemy won’t help much when attempting to damage vehicles, but against non-vehicle units it can be a deadly ability.  The fact that preferred enemy extends to his tank squadron is of significance as it improves the performance of the unit’s weaponry allowing any 1’s To Hit or To Wound to be re-rolled.  These are all definitely great benefits to improve the unit and I expect to see plenty of this special character as the Warlord in Astra Militarum armies.


While using the previous codex, after much grousing over the poor performance of my Leman Russ Vanquisher (Hull Lascannon and sponson heavy bolters and a pintle storm bolter) at 200 points and the encouragement of many of my peers I finally decided to upgrade the tank with Pask to bring its cost to 250 points.  With that expenditure of points upgrading the tank further to have plasma cannon sponsons for an additional 20 points seemed like a no-brainer bringing the cost of the tank to a whopping 270 points.   It was a definite improvement performance-wise given the points already invested in the unit back then.

This same tank configuration in the new Astra Militarum codex comes to 250 points – still a significant points investment – with the knowledge that the points for at least one additional Leman Russ are still yet needing to be spent.  Without the need for any other HQ selections Pask now becomes an attractive option when putting together an army.

Tank Commanders don’t have a lot of synergy with many units in the Astra Militarum codex, beyond the obvious psykers with divination and taking prescience as the Primaris power, but a couple of other powers are worth considering.  Divination also has Forewarning (4+ invulnerable save), Pyromancy has Fire Shield (4+ cover save and additional hammer of wrath hits if the unit is successfully assaulted), Biomancy has Endurance (It Will Not Die).

Techpriest Engineseers can repair hull points, immobilized vehicles and destroyed weapons.   It can definitely be helpful to help keep the Tank Commander alive, and allow a weapon to fire at a different target using their Power Of The Machine Spirit rule – making the squadron even more flexible when combined with the Tank Commander’s ‘Gunners, Kill On sight!‘ order.

Camo Netting gives +1 to their cover save and gives them a 6+ cover save in the open.

Bullgryns with their Slabshields give units partially obscured by them +1 to their cover save.

Relic Plating gives the vehicle the Adamantium Will special rule, helpful against psychic attacks which could destroy or otherwise affect the tank.  Note that if one vehicle in the unit has this upgrade and is not destroyed, all other vehicles in the unit gain the benefit of a 5+ Deny the Witch roll.

A cheap Aegis Defence Line can provide the Tank Commander and his unit an effective cover save improving the unit’s survivability from shooting dramatically.  However if they are too close to the defence line, they may be a bit more vulnerable to assaults when considering how assaults against units behind defence lines are handled.

Destroyed Russ

Tank Commanders and the tanks they command should be a more common sight on the 40k battlefields going forward.   Armies will need to come up with ways to deal with this sort of heavy armour – before it deals with them.


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