Imperial Guard troops are an oddity. The options available are staggering - you can get veterans, heavy weapons, conscripts - and everything in between. Stuff that would fill up another codex entirely is to be found neatly packed in the two troops pages of the codex. It's perfectly possible to build a very competitive army incorporating all the required specialisations just using Troops slots.
Infantry Platoon: The absolute mainstay of the Guard - and I think we forget how unique it is sometimes. It's a self-contained army, with a HQ squad, heavy weapons and a main body and is perhaps the most flexible troops option in all of 40K. You can whack 65 men on the board for one slot if that takes your fancy.
The squad itself is fairly basic - normal human statline, access to special and heavy weapons, plus a sergeant. Their strength is, of course, in numbers. Tactically, it's best to go for a decentralised command (ie, six platoons with two squads each, say, over two platoons of six squads each) to give you the greatest number of officers. While the men don't need officers to perform their main duty, which is rolling 50+ lasgun shots when your opponent gives you 10, officers increase their effectiveness while also providing a little close-combat boost.
As for unit choices - well, a matter of preference. Meltaguns are good because they give you something against tanks, which you can fire while on the move. There's a little discussion on assault weapons in this post, but it's a bit of personal preference really.
Heavy weapons are a bit more controversial. I used to go for centralised Heavy Weapons squads and keep them out of my squads, so they could move without being slowed down. Now, I go for Heavy Bolters in the squads as all too often I find, in Turn 3 when I'm close to the enemy, the Heavy Weapons I left behind are now out of range. I advance to 24" and shoot it out, for which the bolters are invaluable. Now with snap shooting, their three shots also have a chance of hitting at least once on the move as well.
Talking about cost and model coolness seems a little bit redundant - the options out there are simply staggering. But the basic Cadian/Catachan squads are still excellent
As I say, I'll forgo the star rating. How do you rate the effectiveness of Infantry Squads at winning battles? It's like trying to rate the effectiveness of water at precluding dying of thirst.
Conscripts. Ah, fresh meat for the grinder. That's really all Conscripts are. If you take the above infantry platoon section and conclude it to its logical extreme, you get conscripts.
Guardsmen are there to shoot lasguns - Conscripts carry lasguns, and are a tiny bit cheaper - why am I paying for the extra stats? (Yes, it's BS2 but the 16.5% worse chance to hit is compensated for by having squads 50% bigger). And that's what they're used for. They are excellent for mobbing an enemy with so many lasguns (or CC attacks) that he doesn't know what hit him. The human wave stereotype also has some tactical merit here - if you can be cold-hearted enough to send them in front of your normal infantry squads they'll absorb an awful lot of fire. Not least because an enemy may be subconsciously attracted to the idea of blasting them to bits with template weapons rather than making a calcualted decision. Their poor leadership and low BS is not really warranted in the cost, so consider just taking extra regular squads.
No models to represent conscripts (but I'd recommend Vicky Lamb's Penal Legion - the basis for my own conscript army) but as the links hopefully show, there's plenty of scope for conversions here. The only problem stems from the enormous squad sizes, which mean they'll cost a bomb in real cash.
Value for money **
Model coolness N/A
A good unit for the stand-and-shoot tactic - but it'll cost a lot of cash.
Veterans. Recently moved from Elites to Troops in the last codex, Veterans are now a viable option for a more traditionally-structured army - so no platoons, just one 10-man squad per slot. They also allow players who want a tank- or elite-heavy army to take the bare minimum two troops slot and keep costs/points down. The unit itself is the twin sister of stormtroopers - slightly more weapons options available, but no DS and consequently a lot less flexible.
Be wary of relying on them too heavily - my own veteran squad costs the better part of 200pts and has a reputation for being boltered to death by about Turn 2.
As with conscripts, GW currently don't make any models for veterans. Unlike conscripts, they're just one squad which means many gamers go to town on these guys and are the pride and joy of their collection. For that reason alone it's usually worth including at least one.
Value for money ***
Model coolness N/A
Perfect for showcasing your skills, and a fairly cheap-yet-dependable assault unit.
Chimera. Despite not having any in my army, the Chimera is one of my favourite Guard models. It's cheap, dependable, tonnes of firepower for its class, and although its armour is modest by Guard standards it's on a par with most other armies' main tanks. Weighing in at 70pts it can be readily fielded with no upgrades, just send him straight in. They excel at getting your men into line of battle quickly, and once that's done unlike Rhinos or Wave Serpants, they remain formidable fire platforms in their own right. Consider the cost of a heavy bolter in a squad - for 60pts more you can get the same heavy bolter plus a multilaser plus that transport capacity. In other words, if your infantry platoons don't have Heavy Weapons consider using Chimeras instead.
Never forget (as I regularly do) that you can issue orders from a Chimera! A weak, unupgraded command squad is toughened up enormously by putting them in a Chimera.
Disadvantages include, of course, the weak side armour and the annoying rear access hatch. But I'm scratching my head to think of other serious drawbacks. Its cheap cost means it's easy to fit an extra one in - although they do cost £20, so don't go putting six in the list.
Value for money ***
Model coolness ****
Cheap, cheerful and effective. The Imperial Guard in a nutshell.
And there we have it! Thanks again for reading, if you enjoyed then make sure you check out the rest of this Tactica series. Next up is Fast Attack, although I may try and get a modelling update in before then. Until next time troops ...