Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide 2023

Warhammer 40k's Imperial Guard army has a brand new codex and models - here's our updated guide to the Astra Militarum rules, regiments, and lore

Warhammer 40k astra militarum army guide - Games Workshop image showing artwork of troopers from four different imperial guard regiments

The Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum, or Imperial Guard – faction is humanity’s first defence against the evils of the universe. They’re the boundless armies of the Imperium, normal men and women with no advanced armour or genetically engineered powers – only training, basic weapons, and an unshakeable faith in the Imperium. This guide gives you the full background on the new Imperial Guard codex, models, and lore.

So, what’s the Imperial Guard? Well, in the far future of Warhammer 40k, the Imperium of Man is beset by dangers beyond comprehension. Dark gods, daemons, and aliens all plot humanity’s downfall. You only need to read our guides to the Warhammer 40k factions, marauding Warhammer 40k Chaos forces, and the nefarious Warhammer 40k Xenos races to get a feel for what’s threatening humankind.

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Warhammer Community artwork showing an Astra Militarum force with a banner, making glorious charge

The most famous defenders of humanity are the Space Marines, demigods created by the Emperor of Mankind who stand as a bulwark against the worst the universe has to throw at them. They’re peerless in battle, but they’re few, and can’t win galactic wars on their own. In their own way, the human soldiers of the Imperial Guard boast far more bravery, grit, and determination than even the Adeptus Astartes can muster.

If standing with your fellow humans against all odds sounds like your cup of recaff, read on for the latest new Astra Militarum models, details of their lore and tactics, Warhammer 40k codex releases, and more.

Here’s what you need to know about the Astra Militarum:

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New Astra Militarum models 2022

With the new 9th edition Imperial Guard codex now out in the wild, Games Workshop has recently previewed a surprisingly large range of new Astra Militarum models to tempt would-be regimental commanders out of retirement.

The new ‘Cadia Stands’ Astra Militarum army set is now available, launching the new range (and codex), but that’s just for starters. The Imperial Guard are getting a brand new Rogal Dorn Battle Tank; revamped basic, heavy weapons, and elite infantry squads; a new Cadian Castellan character; a new artillery gun unit; an updated model for the Sentinel walker; the first ever plastic models for its horseback cavalry the Rough Riders; a new Commissar sculpt; and not one but two brand new named characters.

Here’s everything that’s on the way:

Warhammer 40k astra militarum army guide - Games Workshop image showing the new Lord Solar Leontus character model

Lord Solar Leontus

Resplendent in golden armour atop his cybernetic horse Konstantin, Lord Solar Leontus is effectively the new ‘big boss’ of the Imperial Guard.

We’ve not seen all his rules yet – but GW has revealed one special rule for Leontus – The Collegiate Astrolex – which allows you to swap out one of your secondary objectives after your opponent picks theirs. Tasty.

Warhammer 40k astra militarum army guide - Games Workshop image showing the new Lord Castellan Ursula Creed model

Lord Castellan Ursula Creed

Possibly the best female Warhammer 40k model ever, Lord Castellan Ursula Creed is a named character HQ unit – daughter and heir to beloved Imperial Guard leader Ursarkar E. Creed.

Revealed earlier this year, long before the rest of the new range, we don’t yet know when Ursula Creed will be released – but we hope it’s soon.

Warhammer 40k astra militarum army guide - Games Workshop image showing the new Rogal Dorn battle tank model

Rogal Dorn Battle Tank

Long whispered of in rumours by Imperial Guard fans, the brand new Rogal Dorn Battle Tank was finally revealed by GW in October.

Slotting in between the stalwart Leman Russ Battle Tank and the mighty Baneblade heavy tank, it’s sure to be a very popular choice for Astra Militarum armoured forces, combining toughness, manoeuvrability, and big-ass guns.

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Rough Riders

Being taken by some as a return to some of the silliness of old-school Imperial Guard models, classic horse-riding cavalry unit the Attilan Rough Riders are making a comeback with new plastic models.

Lightly armoured and armed with grenades on the ends of sticks, these madmen are gloriously ridiculous in the grand old 40k tradition. Bring them on!

Warhammer 40k astra militarum army guide - Games Workshop image showing the new Kasrkin models

Kasrkin

Cadia’s most heavily armed and armoured elite infantry squads, the Kasrkin are coming as plastic models for the first time.

In fact, they’re already out, as they were released a little ahead of the rest of the new range, as part of the Kill Team Shadowvaults box. When these hellgun-toting badasses turn up as standalone kits, we’ll be ready.

Warhammer 40k astra militarum army guide - Games Workshop image showing the new cadian shock troops models

Cadian Shock Troops

After receiving an upgrade sprue with female heads last year, the Cadian Shock Troops – the Imperial Guard’s standard troops unit – are back with a vengeance (and a serious makeover).

We’ll see them first in the Astra Militarum army set, which includes two full ten-model squads.

Warhammer 40k astra militarum army guide - Games Workshop image showing the new heavy weapons squad models

Heavy Weapons Squads

Providing vital fire support to the Imperial Guard’s infantry forces, Heavy Weapons Squads have long been an essential ingredient in most Astra Militarum armies.

Their revamped plastic kits get the same weapon options, but a much-needed visual update in line with the Cadian Shock Troops they’ll be fighting alongside.

Warhammer 40k astra militarum army guide - Games Workshop image showing the new Field Ordnance Battery models

Field Ordnance Battery

A brand new addition to the Imperial Guard tabletop army, the Field Ordnance Battery has already won a lot of love from Astra Militarum fans who’ve spent years gazing longingly at the Death Korps of Krieg’s Forge World resin static artillery gun models.

Offering a choice of an artillery cannon, a missile barrage launcher, or a new variant of heavy lascannon, these squads will add a hell of a lot of anti-tank firepower to gunline forces.

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Cadian Castellan

Another new addition to the Astra Militarum faction, the Cadian Castellan is a roving junior infantry officer who looks to be performing a similar role to the Space Marine lieutenants – relaying crucial orders and providing support buffs to nearby squads.

Warhammer 40k astra militarum army guide - Games Workshop image showing the new Armored Sentinel model

Sentinels

The Astra Militarum Sentinel walkers are a distinctive, striking fast attack vehicle unit that is in no way a rip-off of Star Wars’ iconic grey-armoured AT-STs.

The new, upsized plastic model has a heftier, more curved metal cockpit than its boxy, fragile-looking predecessor – and we’re here for it.

Warhammer 40k astra militarum army guide - Games Workshop image showing the new Commissar model

Commissar

The imposing Commissar character unit is an icon of the Imperial Guard army, and it’s fitting that it get its own, slightly upsized redesign, in line with the Cadian infantry units.

While the new model seems to be dividing fan opinion somewhat with its deliberately static, unexciting pose, we tend to think a defiant, ramrod-straight back fits the profile of these ruthless political officers well.

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Games Workshop artwork from the cover of the new astra militarum codex showing lord solar leontus on his robot horse Konstantin

Astra Militarum codex

The 9th edition Astra Militarum codex went live for pre-order (as part of the Cadia Stands Astra Militarum Army Set) on Saturday, November 12. The final box and codex release date is Black Friday, November 25, 2022 – after a full 13 days on pre-order.

With the big deployment day approaching, GW has begun previewing the new codex rules in more detail.

Here are all the new rules we’ve seen so far:

  • Regimental Doctrines
  • Orders
  • Stratagems

Regimental Doctrines

GW’s recent reveal of the new Regimental Doctrines system confirms that mixed-regiment Imperial Guard armies are back, with units of Cadians, Catachan Jungle Fighters, and Death Korps of Krieg able to fight side by side (without hobbling your army’s combat effectiveness).

“Instead of constraining you to a single specific regiment, the new codex has you mix and match tactics to create your favourite flavour of Guardsmen,” says GW in a WarCom preview from November 8.

“All you need to do is choose a pair of Regimental Doctrines to dictate how they fight.”

GW says there are 15 Doctrines to choose from, which can create a total of 93 unique pairings. Some (but not all) grant your units a keyword of the same name, tying them to themed stratagems – two of which we’ve seen already; read on to see those.

Five Doctrines have been previewed so far – you can check out the graphics above, but we’ll break them down in a table for ease of reading:

Regimental Doctrine Effect
Expert Bombardiers

You get the Expert Bombardiers keyword.

Artillery models get +1 to their hit rolls if the target is within 12 inches and visible to a friendly Vox-caster or Sentinel unit.

Veteran Guerillas

You get the Veteran Guerillas keyword.

Infantry or Sentinel models ignore all cover when shooting a unit within 18 inches.

Parade Drill Units that Remain Stationary in their movement phase get to treat their Lasguns and Hot-shot lasguns as Heavy 2 on that shooting phase.
Industrial Efficiency AP-1 attacks against your models are treated as having AP0.
Grim Demeanour

You get the Grim Demeanour keyword.

You ignore all modifiers to your Combat Attrition tests.

Warhammer 40k astra militarum army guide - Games Workshop image showing the details of the new Regimental Tactics rule, which governs how Imperial Guard orders will now work

Astra Militarum Orders

The 9th edition codex makes a broad sweep of changes to Astra Militarum orders, but arguably the biggest is adding Prefectus Orders, which can only be given by Commissars (and Lord Solar Leontus, but he’s special).

We’ll have a full run down of the new orders here soon, but until then you can get a taste of the Prefectus Orders in the news story linked above.

Stratagems

The new codex includes a total of 31 new Astra Militarum Stratagems. Two of these have already been previewed by GW on November 8: Vicious Traps and Acceptable Losses.

Triggered when one of your units gets charged, the 1CP Stratagem Vicious Traps deals either d3 or 2d3 mortal wounds to the charging enemies, depending on a dice roll – on which you’ll get bonuses if you’re Catachan; have Sly Marbo; or are armed with Melta Mines. Flavoursome stuff.

Acceptable Losses, for 1CP, allows you to fire on units locked in melee combat with your own troops, so long as they have the Platoon keyword (your mainline infantry squads, we presume) or the Grim Demeanour doctrine keyword. With so many big guns making a comeback here, this could see a lot of use in infantry horde lists.

Warhammer 40k astra militarum army guide - Games Workshop image showing the new Rogal Dorn Battle Tank and Cadian Shock Troops models

Turret Weapon

A recent Rogal Dorn Battle Tank rules preview also revealed the Guard are getting a new Turret Weapon rule that’ll allow its tanks to fire their main, turret-based guns at faraway targets even if there are enemy units fighting them in melee.

Assuming it applies to all (or most) of the army’s vehicles, this will make a huge difference to gameplay, as Astra Militarum armies have long suffered competitively from the ease with which infantry-heavy foes can effectively “switch off” much of your firepower simply by charging cheap, weak troops into combat with every tank on the board.

For now, though, Astra Militarum forces still rely on the 8th Edition Astra Militarum Codex for their essential rules, helping to put boots on the tabletop ground.

Imperial Guard legacy rules

Now that the 9th edition codex is in the wild, all Imperial Guard legacy rules are no longer legal for current edition play – but you can still use some of them in games at home, should you wish.

The Psychic Awakening: The Greater Good supplement gifted the Guard new Tank Ace upgrades to beef up your key vehicles, as well as rules for creating your own custom Regimental Doctrines. And the Imperial Armour Compendium, whilst mainly focusing on Forge World models, has plenty of rules that can be used in conjunction with your Astra Militarum force. For example, if you’re looking at building a Death Korps of Krieg army then the included Regimental Doctrine for them is well worth paying attention to.

Between these three books – the Astra Militarum 8th Edition Codex, Psychic Awakening: The Greater Good, and the Imperial Armour Compendium – you should have all the rules on hand you’ll need for your army. Then again, if you’re not in a tearing hurry, it might be better to hold on for the 9th Edition codex to come along. We can’t make that call for you – may the Emperor guide your decision.

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Warhammer Community artwork showing an Astra Militarum force with a banner, making glorious charge

Astra Militarum Tactics

Astra Militarum tactics in tabletop Warhammer 40k are all about paying close attention to the strengths and weaknesses of the army. There are many rules and tactics that make the Astra Militarum a compelling force to choose on the battlefield, and, like all the other Warhammer 40k armies, there’s a few weaknesses to look out for, too.

In terms of broad benefits for an Astra Militarum force, the first is simply the range of models you’ll have access to. The Imperial Guard has one of the widest selections available to any Warhammer 40k player, with tonnes of specialisation built in.

This means that if you need a unit or a model for a specific purpose, chances are Games Workshop will have something out there for you. This also ties into how many models you can put onto the tabletop. The Imperial Guard is cheaper to play, in terms of points cost, than many other armies, allowing you to choose your force with some degree of redundancy.

Of course, you can’t throw bodies into the mincer, but you can (and indeed must) take a fair amount of casualties without wincing too much.

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Warhammer Community artwork showing a gunline of Mordians beset by Chaos daemons

Similar to many armies, you’ll also get unique Astra Militarum tactics and rules that only they can use.

Orders are the Imperial Guard’s speciality, allowing you to lay down an order each turn to each of your units. These can range from rerolling 1s to hit, through to allowing your units to move and advance, instead of shooting – essential if you’re planning on hoofing it up the field to grab an objective.

The final main benefit for an Astra Militarum player is shooting. An Imperial Guard force simply has some of the best shooting in the game, with massed gun lines, cheap tanks, good artillery, and much more that can stand back and lay into the other side of the battlefield without budging an inch. If you’re into Warhammer 40,000 to make something go boom, then you’re in the right place.

For weaknesses we start by flipping one of their strengths; while their shooting is almost unmatched, the Imperial Guard, as an army, are vulnerable and weak in melee. In fact, the Astra Militarum do have some strong melee units – but they’re few and far between. Even the strongest Bullgryn melee units can’t stand toe-to-toe with armies that specialise in getting up close and personal, like Orks, Khorne Chaos Space Marines, or Tyranids.

Astra Militarum units and models tend to be quite fragile in the face of incoming damage, too. This makes sense given what they are – we’re talking humans after all, not the daemons from a pain dimension which some armies can field – so it’s understandable that, model-for-model, the Imperial Guard can be squishy.

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Warhammer Community artwork showing a Leman Russ battle tank firing its cannon

Even their special weapons platforms and Imperial Guard tanks aren’t as well armoured as some other forces’ equivalents, so you’ll have to keep an eye on damage if you want to succeed.

If you’re planning on fielding an Imperial Guard force, then the key is to pay attention to exploit your strengths, while attempting to ameliorate your weaknesses.

You’ll have plenty of troops to throw into battle, which can be daunting for your foe to face, and your gun line will frankly be a ridiculous size – make sure you’ve brought enough dice. The size of your army, as well as your ability to toss out damage at distance, will mean you can control the board easily and make sure your opponent doesn’t dare pop out of cover for a single round.

Keep your distance, keep the big guns pounding, and remember to fire off core Orders like Move! Move! Move! or the lasgun-enhancing First Rank, Fire! Second Rank, Fire!, and you’ll have the board locked down in no time.

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Warhammer Community photo showing a huge Imperial Guard army of models moving across a field

Imperial Guard Regiments

Although the new 9th edition codex removes the restrictions on building army lists based on a single Imperial Guard Regiment in favour of creating forces mixed from multiple regiments, these distinctive subfactions remain a vital part of Astra Militarum lore to weave into your army.

Throughout the Imperium, many planets are compelled to form their own Imperial Guard regiments, conscripting hundreds of thousands of troops in the name of the God Emperor Himself. The Imperium is colossal beyond all imagination – meaning it’s more than possible to create your own Imperial Guard regiment, customising them to use the rules and paint schemes you prefer.

Since the Psychic Awakening: The Greater Good rules release, Games Workshop have made sure that you’ll be able to make custom Astra Militarum regiments and have their specialities reflected in-game. However, as with other factions, the game features several canonical Imperial Guard regiments that have become legends throughout the Imperium, and, as a result, have specific rules and histories. Here are some of the most popular and famous regiments known to humanity.

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Warhammer Community photo showing Armageddon Steel Legion models

Armageddon

The hive world of Armageddon is known for fending off a colossal horde of Orks on several separate occasions. As a result of the many invasions it’s survived, the planet maintains a large Imperial Guard regiment, known as the Armageddon Steel Legion. On the tabletop, an Armageddon force naturally gravitates towards keeping your troops safe in transports, popping out to deal damage. For example, their order Mount Up! lets a target unit immediately hop on a nearby transport after shooting, keeping them safe for another turn.

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Warhammer Community photo showing Cadian Shock Troops models

Cadian

For millennia, the planet Cadia held vigil over the Eye of Terror, a hideous rent in space-time that led to a dimension ruled by Chaos. This proximity to humanity’s most deadly enemies led the Cadian forces to become one of the most famous and most numerous of all. Alas, during Abaddon the Despoiler’s 13th Black Crusade, Cadia was finally destroyed, leaving the remnants of its Imperial Guard scattered across the galaxy, taking the fight to Chaos wherever they can. When playing a Cadian force, you’ll find that their Regimental Doctrine – Born Soldiers – is a natural fit for staying still and pounding the enemy to dust, as it lets stationary units reroll 1s to hit, with many other rules also promoting a strong tank division.

Catachan

This death world is a jungle paradise, until you set foot on it. Everything wants to kill you there, and we do mean /absolutely/ everything. The Catachan Jungle Fighters make up the core of their Imperial Guard regiment, deadly foes who look down on anyone who hasn’t suffered as they have. The Catachan Regimental Doctrine of Brutal Strength buffs Infantry units to gain +1 to Strength and +1 to Leadership if they’re near an officer, which can completely transform how you play your army. We mentioned above that the Astra Militarum doesn’t fare well in melee – that doesn’t apply to Catachan armies.

Krieg

The planet of Krieg once suffered a civil war, with many trying to secede from the Imperium. Today, in shame, the Death Korps of Krieg attempt to make up for this betrayal by fighting harder, suffering more, and pushing themselves past fear in service of the Imperium. Their Regimental Doctrine reflects this, Cult of Sacrifice lets destroyed Vehicles or Characters shoot or fight once more before being removed from the table. Even when you think you’ve taken the Death Korps out, they still keep fighting.

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Warhammer Community photo showing Mordian Iron Guard models

Mordian

The Iron Guard Regiment hails from the tidally locked hive world of Mordian. Renowned for standing up to repeated Chaos incursions, their troops are disciplined and fierce on the battlefield, never letting Chaos gain a foothold. When playing a Mordian regiment, you’ll see this discipline reflected with rules such as the Warlord Trait Iron Discipline, which can stop nearby troops fleeing on failed Leadership rolls.

Tallarn

This desert world is beset by dust storms at all times, so it’s no wonder their Astra Militarum regiment has such an affinity for staying inside their tanks. Staying still on this hot world means death, which shows itself in their Regimental Doctrine Swift as the Wind. This rule lets your Infantry shoot their non-heavy weapons after moving as well as gets rid of any penalties for Vehicles which move and shoot. Their other rules also focus on movement, especially Vehicle movement, making them an ideal fit for a mobile tank division.

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Warhammer Community photo showing Valhallan ice warriors models

Valhallan

Valhalla, as the name would suggest, has become a frozen world of ice and death. Their Imperial Guard made their name fending off a tide of Orks, while fighting their own bellies during a food shortage. They’re strong and unflinching in combat, with a Relic that displays their iron will. The Petrov’s MK 45 is a bolt pistol with -1 AP, dealing 2 damage – but it has a side effect that makes it a must-take on the tabletop. It stops more than one Valhallan model fleeing from units within 6 inches, making your meat shields suddenly become fearless in the face of overwhelming foes.

Vostroyan

An industrial world, Vostroya has close links to the Mechanicus and Mars in particular. Their weapons tend to be well-maintained, out-performing other Imperial Guard regiments under similar circumstances. Their Regimental Doctrine, Heirloom Weapons, is the perfect example of this. It adds 6 inches to the range of rapid-fire and heavy weapons which have a base range of over 24 inches, making nowhere safe from a well-equipped Vostroyan force.

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Victoria Miniatures store graphic for the Scrapper's Bag of Bits

Imperial Guard Conversions

Converting models or buying components to customise your models can be difficult with Warhammer 40,000, as many armies are designed in ways that make them completely unlike anything available out there on the market.

The Astra Militarum, thankfully, allows for a huge degree of customisation, with many stunning armies being made up of innovative and creative Imperial Guard conversions. As the entire design behind the Astra Militarum takes inspiration from World War II and World War I armies, you can easily mix in third party parts or models from ranges like Warlord Games’ Bolt Action, or even Black Powder, to spice up your army’s visual appeal.

Many companies, such as Pig Iron Productions, Victoria Miniatures (whose Guard-flavoured ‘Scrapper’s Bag of Bits’ product image you see above, or Anvil Industry also make troops that either focus on accurate historical miniatures, or ones that combine history with science fiction, making their models and conversion bits ideal for your Imperial Guard Conversions. If you want to diversify your forces, some companies offer a wider range female model options, such as the excellent Bad Squiddo Games.

Out of all the armies in Warhammer 40k, the Imperial Guard are maybe the best positioned for conversions; hell, even an Airfix kit can be easily taken apart and utilised in an upgrade or visual change for your army. When converting your troops and models, your imagination is the only thing holding you back, so grab your glue and a pair of snips and get going.

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Warhammer Community artwork showing an Astra Militarum force with a banner, making glorious charge

How to Start Collecting Astra Militarum

One of the prime benefits of an Astra Militarum force is the breadth of troops, models, and Imperial Guard tanks available to you. Whilst it’s incredibly exciting to look at the variety you can choose from, it can also be a little overwhelming. Here are our picks for how to start your own Astra Militarum force, starting from nothing and building your way to a small competitive army.

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Games Workshop photo of the models in the Start Collecting Astra Miltarum box on a white background

Start Collecting! Astra Militarum

This box is almost essential when looking to build your own Imperial Guard force, as, unlike some Start Collecting boxes, everything within it is useful. You’ll find a Leman Russ Battle Tank, a Cadian Heavy Weapon Team, an Officio Prefectus Commissar, and ten Cadian Shock Troops (your bog standard infantry; you’ll need a lot of these).

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Games Workshop photo of the models in the Cadian Defence Force on a white background

Cadian Defence Force

Unlike many armies, Games Workshop have collected some great starter boxes that include many units and models that’ll be useful no matter which direction you take with your force.

The Cadian Defence Force includes some of the key units from the Astra Militarum line, including a Chimera, a Leman Russ, a Cadian Heavy Weapon Squad, a Cadian Imperial Guard Command Squad, and 20 Cadian Guardsmen. This is a flexible box that combines a little of everything that makes the Astra Militarum a joy to collect, from grunts to tanks – with a commander thrown in for good luck (and a couple more Orders).

Warhammer 40k Astra Militarum army guide - Games Workshop photo of the models in the Catachan Defence Force on a white background

Catachan Defence Force

The other option you could swing for is the Catachan Defence Force. This depends heavily on which direction you see your army taking, and if you wish to utilise more of a close-range, heavy-hitting force, over the Cadians’ static gun line.

This box includes a Chimera, a Leman Russ, a Catachan Heavy Weapon Squad, a Catachan Command Squad, and 20 Catachan Guardsmen. With a heftier price than the Cadian Defence Force, this box is a little harder to justify purchasing, and its Catachan contents will lead to more specialised play than the more versatile Cadians. That said, if you feel yourself pulled towards the thick-bicepped, monster-wrangling Catachans, then this box simply cannot be beaten for that regiment.

From there, the sky is, quite frankly, the limit. If you want to toughen up your army against melee threats, some Bullgryns or Ogryns may be your next purchase – or you could focus on grabbing a Basilisk or a Manticore for some powerful, long-range heavy support. If you want to put the fear of the Imperium into your foes and your own troops, a Commissar is a worthy investment, bolstering your troops when facing overwhelming odds.

However you approach the Astra Militarum, you’ll find that they’re a strong force that embodies all that’s hopeful and noble in the grimdark Warhammer 40,000 universe. Whilst other armies can rely on magic powers or divine intervention, the Imperial Guard have only each other.

Oh, and tanks. Lots and lots of tanks.