Greetings my fellow hobbyists and war-gamers, may your day be blessed and your aim true in the face of adversity. It is such deeds that bespoke the Veterans of the Astra Militarum, soldiers that have amassed a wealth of experience through countless conflicts and close encounters with the jaws of death. These well trained Guardsmen and Guardswomen are among the finest warriors the Imperial Guard has to offer for they have the distinction of surviving past the horror of a humans' first battle in this Age of Darkness. For the Emperor and the glory of the Imperium!
Explaining the differences between Infantry Squads and Veterans is surprisingly easy even when one takes into account the inclusion of Platoon rules for the former, seeing as Veterans are essentially Infantry Squads with a few extra options and one increased stat. Ballistic Skill 4 Guardsmen that are priced similarly to Ork Boyz and armed with all the usual gear including lasguns, flak armour and frag grenades make for some very cost effective Troops choices that can be fielded in decent but hardly significant numbers. The unit size both begins and ends at ten with no option for a smaller or larger squad - if you want Guardsmen and Guardswomen in their droves then Infantry Platoons are your primary option. For a squad comprised entirely of Toughness 3 models with a 5+ armour save (before applicable upgrades) that has options geared mostly for medium to close range firefights, this could be considered a major weakness. Fortunately, the Astra Militarum not only has inexpensive and hardy enough transports but the Veterans themselves are mercifully cheap enough for this not to be a real issue.
Really, aside from being incapable of forming a Combined Squad with other Infantry Squads, a minor points increase, raised Ballistic Skill and an expanded arsenal of weapons and upgrades, Veterans are virtually identical to Infantry Squads in every way even down to having the exact same Leadership values between the "privates" and the sergeants. It is amusing then that Veterans usually fulfill entirely separate roles to Infantry Squads in Astra Militarum army lists, proving that even the slightest changes can make all the difference in a game as complex and deep as Warhammer 40,000. The Ballistic Skill 4 Veterans are far better suited to weapons such as meltaguns or plasma guns and have an increased special weapon allowance to show for this, whereas the less precise Infantry Squads are more restricted in the number of upgraded guns they can take and make far better use of autocannons or flamers because straight accuracy is less important with these weapons. This translates to Veterans performing far better as a mounted squad inside a Chimera or Taurox by using up to three special weapons to deliver crushing firepower at close ranges, whereas Infantry Squads can form Combined Squads that work better as static fire-bases with the addition of Commissars or Ministorum Priests - characters that are wasted on a ten-strong Veterans unit.
Veterans also have three exclusive wargear options that are aptly named "doctrines, providing a mixture of equipment that further specialize the squad into something closely resembling Militarum Tempestus Scions. From defensive camouflage to demolition kits including melta bombs for every model in the unit, doctrines allow a player to customize Veterans to a level unavailable for most other Astra Militarum units - the "Forward Sentries" doctrine allows you to mimic the traits of a Catachan force, while Grenadiers might work more closely with something like a Steel Legion regiment. The diversity of Veterans and their greater ranged presence despite a minimal points increase over Infantry Squads make for a great unit that is also the premier choice for mobile Objective Secured scoring units in ground transports. They are an efficient choice whether they are used to hold an objective in your deployment zone or provide a burst of intense damage at close range from the fire point of a Chimera - I heartily recommend them for a mechanized army list and they definitely make for a good supporting unit to an Infantry Platoon.
How to Equip Them
There are a few advantages a unit of Veterans has over a basic Infantry Squad, with one of them being the Ballistic Skill boost they pay for. This predictably influences which weapons are best suited for the squad as opposed to regular Guardsmen that are best suited to template based weapons or those that have a higher rate of fire. If you take Veterans then you accept that you are paying for Ballistic Skill 4 and thus you may as well use it as best you can, otherwise you may as well stick to Infantry Squads and the benefits a Platoon brings you. For this reason I advocate keeping flamers away from Veterans and more towards mobile Platoon Command Squads or Special Weapon Squads as it doesn't waste that Ballistic Skill 4, even if Veterans are generally a more useful unit to use in Chimeras. A player that uses Veterans will often lean towards a mechanized list because the more elite of the two Troops choices is far better suited to Chimeras with higher Ballistic Skill, doctrines, additional special weapons and so on. If there is one glaring weakness with such lists it tends to be dealing with other vehicles or monstrous creatures that are as durable or more so than Predators and Nemesis Dreadknights.
Enter Veterans with plasma guns and meltaguns for dual purpose monster and tank hunting - plasma guns are more the generalist weapon with their range and rate of fire, whereas meltaguns are more of a specialist anti-tank choice - that combo perfectly with the fast moving and reasonably survivable Chimeras that pack a bit of a punch on their own. The choice of which generally depends on whether you have sufficient tools to deal with AV13 and AV14 vehicles outside of your Veteran squads, as an army lacking in that area will necessitate meltaguns on the Veterans to compensate. On the other hand, plasma guns are a far less risky weapon choice in terms of range that ensures your Veterans won't be charged or shot at soon as they jump out of their Chimera, though the increased cost and potential wounds caused by Gets Hot do balance this out. Generally speaking the 5+ armour save - or 4+ if you pay for a particular doctrine - doesn't work very well with plasma weapons as there is a significant chance the model that rolls a Gets Hot will perish in the process, sacrificing themselves unnecessarily. I feel that the Astra Militarum codex does have trouble against units such as Land Raiders and Monoliths if it is played as a purely mechanized list where lascannon spam from Heavy Weapons Teams and Sabre Defence Platforms is impossible to replicate and so meltaguns are generally the better option for an army list built to take on any opponent. Ultimately though, up to three plasma guns in a Ballistic Skill 4 squad that is so inexpensive with access to an appropriately priced transport can be incredibly scary for armies such as Tyranids or Grey Knights whose monstrous creatures typically operate at close ranges.
For the other options, sniper rifles are cheap but the changes in 7th Edition hurt their overall usefulness badly and as such I would rather spend the extra points for a far more useful weapon like a meltagun that can actually hurt the vast majority of vehicles in the game, and rather easily at that. I've mentioned already that grenade launchers should be skipped and this is no exception on Ballistic Skill 4 Veterans, and the same is very much true of the mortar if you decide to take a Heavy Weapons Team. Missile Launchers and lascannons are very appealing on Veterans because of their increased accuracy as opposed to standard Guardsmen, and while autocannons are still useful I feel they are better reserved for the Ballistic Skill 3 units as their rate of fire mitigates the accuracy issues such squads have. I would avoid flakk missiles - and this goes for any other units with access to them - because of how expensive and wasteful they are compared to something like a flying transport such as the Vendetta that is armed with whopping firepower taking the form of three twin-linked lascannons. The heavy bolter is definitely one to skip with it being near useless against vehicles and heavy infantry, something that a mass of lasguns the rest of the unit brings cannot solve. I would skip shotguns as Veterans in particular with their small numbers should never voluntarily be charging anything given how pitiful they are in combat outside of latching krak grenades or melta bombs to tanks, though against such targets shotguns will be of no more use than lasguns anyway.
Krak Grenades are an efficient upgrade for Veterans that are riding along in a Chimera as insurance against your melta or plasma weapons failing to destroy an enemy vehicle - an event that occurs surprisingly often - though they are hardly necessary, much like any of the three doctrines. Each of the doctrines is best suited to a different kind of Veteran squad, with grenadiers giving embarked squads the extra survivability they need to survive close firefights once they disembark their transport of choice. Forward Sentries is more useful instead for static units as they are far more likely to be camped in cover - such as behind an Aegis Defence Line - and thus the +1 cover save bonus is both more useful for the (lower) points than the armour save but also more likely to gain use when partaking in a long ranged firefight. That this particular doctrine also offers a form of defensive grenades is just a bonus, though if you find such a unit lacking in the anti-tank department then the Demolitions doctrine may be perfectly suited to you. Giving melta bombs to ten models for the price of three meltaguns is scary for any opponent that brings melee monstrous creatures or heavy transports - remembering that the Astra Militarum lacks a proper assault transport - while adding a single demolition charge in gives the unit some serious punch at close quarters. Still, I do feel paying for two plasma guns or a pair of meltaguns with an autocannon can fulfill the same role and still allow the unit to be useful both at all ranges without having to endanger themselves through combat - remember, melta bombs are Unwieldy and Veterans are fragile!
For those that to theme their army around the forces of Catachan and more specifically its second regiment the "Catachan Devils", Gunnery Sergeant Harker is a cool albeit expensive addition to add character and steel to a Veterans squad. Though the change to Relentless does mean you can no longer use Harker to allow a Heavy Weapons Team to fire at full Ballistic Skill on the move, the giant of a man can still fire his special Heavy Bolter regardless of whether he moves or not. Three shots at Ballistic Skill 4 that are Strength 5, AP4 and Rending are nice but ultimately not worth the Gunnery Sergeant's whopping price tag - especially seeing as he replaces the existing Veteran Sergeant! Having natural Strength 4 and krak grenades as standard is not enough to make up for his excessive cost as providing Relentless to the squad no longer functions as it used to, meaning that even if you did want to run a "combat" Veterans unit they would stop as soon as they use their lasguns. It doesn't help that Veterans themselves don't want to be in combat unless it is a vehicle that isn't also a nasty walker - such as a Furioso Dreadnought with blood talons - that can tear the squad apart before they strike back. Harker is just too expensive for what he does considering all he can really provide over a standard Veteran Sergeant in 7th Edition is a slightly superior heavy bolter that can be shot on the move, but seeing as heavy bolters aren't that great to begin with this is hardly a compliment.
While "mechanized Veterans" has existed as a tactic for longer than Imperator Guides has existed as a blog, it nonetheless remains a hallmark even through to 7th Edition where AP1 and AP2 weapons are more coveted than ever because of the more forgiving vehicle damage chart. You cannot take massed missile launchers and expect to wreck every tank you see with a single lucky 5+ roll anymore; you either need to be able to strip hull points off incredibly quickly or be able to reliably cause an Explodes result on a vehicle in one or two shooting phases with your dedicated anti-tank units. Veterans armed with three meltaguns and loaded up in either a Chimera or Taurox - but preferably the former for its added survivability with such a fragile close ranged unit embarked - tick one of those requirements and can shred most vehicles up to and including Land Raiders with ease, earmarking themselves as the best tool for such enemies in a mechanized army.
They are cheap enough with a good transport that itself offers solid firepower to be considered one of the more points efficient choices in the codex, though their presence in a static list is also not to be under-estimated. Ballistic Skill 4 Heavy Weapon Teams are awesome as is a bevy of plasma or melta special weapons, while the unit remains inexpensive even despite their increased cost over Infantry Squads - they pay appropriately for the benefits they receive, especially when the forward sentries doctrine is taken into account. While I don't think grenadiers is a required doctrine for a mechanized squad if only to save points - though units with plasma guns should really consider the upgrade - I do feel the super low cost of forward sentries and the impressive defensive boost it provides to a static unit is well worth the extra points investment. Fortunately and much like the renamed Stormtroopers, Veterans are versatile and yet still amazingly cheap for what they do and as such it is truly difficult to put a wrong foot forward with them.
And that marks not only the end of my Veterans review but also closure for the Troops section of the Astra Militarum codex. While Veterans and the various constituents of an Infantry Platoon all have their role to play, it is doubtless that each of the choices present favour numerical supremacy and sheer firepower over your opponents rather than melee prowess or elite profiles. The Astra Militarum is built upon cheap units that lay down incredible quantities of firepower but are either inaccurate or lacking in damage output without the help of the "supporting cast" - Primaris Psykers, Command Squads and so on. Though Veterans do somewhat buck this trend they are nonetheless a unit that cannot be thrown into any situation and be expected to excel much like Space Marines - they are but one of many tools available to an Imperial General and are expendable just like any other. With that all said, I hope you enjoyed this article and have yourself a great day!