This unit is the basic bullet-catcher of the eldar army. Thier major goal is to give the enemy something cheap to shoot at. They are great for screening, or just mobbing your foe. Lets take a look at what you are getting for your 8 points. When compared to an average human, you are getting one more point of leadership and initative.
This gives your troops a slight advantage in hand to hand over regular humans and gives them an acceptable leadership value.
You are also getting the shurkien catapult for your points. This weapon itself is worth 2 points and is easily the equilivant of a bolter. The trick with this weapon is to realise that its an assult 2 weapon, and needs to be utilized as such.
Its an infantry shredder, and is great for just that purpose. It works best vs light infantry, but can be used vs tougher foes with lesser results.
You also get fleet of foot with your guardian unit. This will probably be negated by the heavy weapons platform, but it is worth note here.
For an extra 2 points you can give your squad plasma gernades. Given that defenders are not naturally troopers designed for hand to hand, that is not the best option for your troops.
The Size Matters
The first thing to consider is how big your squad will be. Many people think that you should go with a 20 man squad. This can get rather cumbersome when you add a warlock and heavy weapons squad. This means your squad is 23 souls strong, which can be a bad thing.
Large units must be spread out. This is to prevent being torn apart by blast templates. You need to try and keep your figures 2 inches apart at all times, so a blast template will only get 3 or 4 people tops.
This means thats its easy for some of your figures to not be in cover where the rest are.
Large units are easy to bog down. A guardian squad is not designed to get into hand to hand combat, but with a large until, its easier for an opponet to get his chaos space marines into contact with just one of your pieces and then tie your entire unit up in combat.
Large units cannot fully bring their firepower to bear. Remember that your shuriken catapults only have a 12 inch range. This means that if your unit is 23 souls strong, its quite possible that only 10 or 15 of them will actually be in range to use their weapons.
I have found that the best size for guardian squads are 10 guardians, 2 support weapons guardians, and one warlock, for a total of 13 souls. This keeps the squad large enough to absorb hits, but small enough to not easily get bogged down in fights.
Defender Guardian squads should never be just ‘filler’ in your army. If you are just looking to fill the two troop requirements, then use scout squads. Guardians are very effective but they must be used properly.
The guardian defender squads are quite flexable. They are naturally very good aginst light targets, such as imperial guard or orks and you need to consider how you are going to build and use your guardians.
Most of the time, your guardians are bullet catchers for your more valueable troops. They are designed to stand in front of your troops and absorb some of the brunt.
While moving foward and providing cover fire they will help to support your main troops. When you get in close, they will provide a large rush of fire into the enemy ranks and allow for your more heavy combat squad, such as scorpions to engage the enemy.
Again, guardians are the bullet-catchers of your army. That is why you have spent eight points on that trooper with the soul gem on his or her chest. Do not mind when they die, and smile becuase you know that they will come back as a wraithguard or wraithlord. Every time you lose a guardian, tell yourself that at least you are not losing a fire dragon.
Sometimes guardians will be used as a fire support. Now, this is a fairly expensive option, as a guardian squad designed for heavy weapons fire can be quite costly, its also one of the more resiliant units in the game.
When you compare a 13 soul guardian unit under the effects of ‘conceal’ by a warlock you have a unit that can take a great deal more hits than the vyper jetbike. As the heavy weapon and warlock are the last troops to go, the enemy has to cut through 11 untils before making the until not able to strike at the opponet.
I have found that the best results with guardians is to put an avatar and/or wraithlords mixed in with them. The wraithlords will keep the enemy from wanting to get near your guardians, and they will constantly back up as your guardians advance.
The avatar, while not as frightening as a wraithlord, will still give your troops the much needed morale bonus in hand to hand.
The Weapon Platform
How to use the heavy weapon platform is up to you. There are one of two approaches to take with your heavy weapons platform.
You can make your platform an anti-infantry platform, such as a starcannon. This choice means your squad will be geared twords anti-infantry and fits in nicely with the rest of your squads shuriken catapults.
You can make your platform a heavy weapon, such as the bright lance. This means that while approaching you can use your squad to take shots at those heavy vehicles while advancing. If you have a warlock with a shining spear, then you can also toss that as a nearby vehicle on your way into the fight.
It is important to not that the weapon platform is NOT cheap. You are paying 50 points for a weapon that fits onto a vyper for 15 points. The reason for this is because the weapon is more protected than it would be on a vyper.
The end result though is that a five man guardian unit sporting a heavy weapon in the back if your line is a poor investment of points.
The warlock gives some added hand to hand ability to the squad, in addition to giving the warlock power of conceal to the squad. This is often the most useful power that a warlock can give to a squad, as it gives a cover save (invulnerable) of a 5+.
This helps to bolster your troops low armor, and will help to keep them around a bit longer.
A witch blade or singing spear on your warlock is not always a good weapon choice.
As the squad is really not designed for hand to hand, it may not be adviseable to spend 15 or 18 points on your warlock.
If you were to save those 15 points on four guardian squads, thats a total of a 60 point savings overall. You can use those points more effectivly elsewhere.
The exception to this is if you want your warlock to have an extra punch vs vehicles its not a bad idea to get a witch blade. From many games of experience, however, it has been discovered that those points are best spent elsewhere.