An Assessment of the Lemun Russ Battle Tank by Nathan Oldacres

29 Jul

The Leman Russ is a veritable cornerstone in many an Imperial Guard army. Its large profile, thick armour and (most importantly) large guns make it an impressive, and useful, unit on the table. When assessing the Leman Russ’ potential impact on a game it is first necessary to determine whether or not a Leman Russ would synergize effectively with the units you have already selected to comprise your army.

More often than not, a Leman Russ is well-rounded enough to pose a strong argument for inclusion in many lists; the AV14 provides excellent protection from the vast majority of heavy weapons, whilst the armaments it wields can be devastating enough to swing a battle in a single shooting phase. The sight of a Leman Russ can often ensnare your opponent’s attention to such an extent that he will dedicate more fire-power than he initially wanted to against its tough hide, drawing fire-power away from other, more valuable and vulnerable units in your army. The large profile of the Leman Russ can BLOS to smaller vehicles entirely, forcing your opponent to engage an AV that he would much rather avoid.

There are times, however, where a Leman Russ would not be the best selection for your particular army. Whilst the turret weapons are, in their own right, very effective against a plethora of targets, the damage output is not as spectacular as other options in the Heavy Support section. If optimized damage output: points spent is a priority, there are superior selections in the Ordnance Battery section that can potentially do much more damage, for cheaper, than a Leman Russ tank.


Many arguments are made as to whether or not to include sponsons on a Leman Russ tank. The only way to discern the correct answer is to decide exactly what role you want your Leman Russ to fulfil on the battlefield. If your Leman Russ is going to be acting as a line-breaker, constantly moving to put pressure on your opponent, then sponsons would not be an ideal expenditure of points; the tank will simply not be stationary enough times throughout the game to use the extra guns. If your Leman Russ is acting as an anchor for your forces, operating alongside a gun line platoon for example, then sponsons suddenly become a much more appealing proposition, as the tank will be able to make use of the extra fire-power it has been given more often. Extra care must be taken during deployment when operating this way, as a turn spent manoeuvring into position is a turn less that the tank gets to unleash its full damage potential on the enemy.

Lumbering Behemoth

A rule unique to the Leman Russ. This rule essentially allows a Leman Russ to always fire two guns, even if moving at combat speed. A Leman Russ (without sponsons) would therefore be able to fire both its battle cannon and its heavy bolter at the same unit even if the tank moved 6”. The downside to this rule is that should the tank want to move at cruising speed, it does so at a potentially much more reduced rate than other vehicles. To this extent, it is always more preferable to move the Russ 6” and fire two guns, than run the risk of moving 7-12” and firing nothing (Turn 1 of Dawn of War games notwithstanding).

Leman Russ Battle Tank

+ S8 AP3 Ordnance is a MEQ’s nightmare.
+ S8 Ordnance is decent against AV11-12 in a pinch.
+ Cheapest variant, buys a solid vehicle at a good price.
– Not the most potent AT potential.
– Expensive when outfitted with ‘exotic’ sponsons.

Optimal loadout: Hull heavy bolter (heavy bolter sponsons optional)

Many players would argue that the traditional Leman Russ is the jack-of-all-trades variant, able to be outfitted to deal with either armour or infantry and deal effectively with both types of targets. I would argue that S8 Ordnance does not necessarily equate to impressive odds when targeting any AV12+, and that lower armour values can easily be handled by other, more numerous, elements of the Guard army.

I prefer to perceive the Leman Russ as one of the best variants to deal with any light-medium infantry with a save of up to 3+. The battle cannon can obliterate Marine squads and Ork mobs alike, whilst the heavy bolter (which can always fire!) can add to the overall tally. Swapping the heavy bolter for a lascannon to try and improve the AT ability of the Leman Russ is simply trying to shoehorn the tank down a path that it isn’t really optimized for. Likewise, adding plasma sponsons for some AP2 punch will more often than not result in your opponent enacting some wound allocation shenanigans to reduce the overall damage caused by the tank.

Leman Russ Vanquisher

+ 72” range 2D6 armour penetration can really put the hurt on vehicles.
– Not AP1.
– Heavy 1 at BS3 results in a miss 50% of the time.

Optimal loadout: Hull lascannon.

The Vanquisher is the tank-hunting tank of the Leman Russ variants. Being able to snipe vehicles from across the table is exceptionally useful, and pairing this variant up with a standard Leman Russ can see you eradicating a transport and the squad inside per turn. The obvious disadvantage of this variant is that the BS3 of the crew means it will only ever hit half the shots it fires, not great when you pay over 150 points for the privilege. When it does hit it will more than likely make an absolute mess of whatever armour was in the way, but Murphy’s Law means that the one time you really, really wanted it to hit, it’ll miss and you’ll be wondering what you just spent all those points on.

The hull lascannon pairs up rather nicely with the vanquisher cannon as they are both high S, low AP weapons and thus synergize very well together.

Leman Russ Exterminator

+ Heavy 4, twin-linked autocannon on AV14 Is pretty cool.

– Hydras exist.

Optimal loadout: Hull heavy bolter.

This is one of the Russ variants that is simply too expensive to justify bringing along. The twin-linked, heavy 4 autocannon would be quite useful if the Hydra didn’t perform exactly the same role, better, for cheaper. When you can purchase two Hydras for the price of a single Exterminator (thus doubling your fire-power) there is simply no real reason to choose this variant. At all.

Leman Russ Eradicator

+ Ignoring cover is great in an edition where cover is king.
+ Decent strength and AP coupled with long range will destroy horde units.
– Effectively a heavy flamer on an AV14 chassis.
– Expensive

Optimal loadout: Hull heavy bolter (heavy bolter sponsons optional)

Another Russ variant whose niche is better suited elsewhere in the codex. The Eradicator looks like a fairly cool tank; AP4 and ignoring cover strips most horde armies of the majority of their long-range fire protection. Unfortunately, a Hellhound can do pretty much exactly the same thing, has roughly the same effective range, and is cheaper. The Eradicator would be best suited as an anchor point for a gunline army, using the heavy bolter sponsons coupled with the nova cannon to dent the tide of infantry swarming towards your lines. If you regularly face Green Tide or Tyranid swarm armies then you may find a use for this tank, otherwise the AP4 and middle-of-the-road strength don’t really cut it when fighting MEQ.

Leman Russ Demolisher

+ One of the best ordnance guns in the game.
+ S10 annihilates infantry and vehicles alike.
+ Tougher rear armour than other variants.
– Short range
– Relatively expensive when considering other options in the codex.

Optimal loadout: Hull heavy flamer.

One of the top 3 Leman Russ variants you can get. The Demolisher can smash anything on the table with contemptuous ease, and then laugh as the return fire ricochets off of its tough armour plating. You’ll never be short of targets for the Demolisher to shoot at; and due to its large threat radius, it can often be placed quite highly on your opponent’s priority list, leaving other units such as Vendettas and Chimera facing less fire-power than they otherwise would have.

The Demolisher’s key flaw is in the short range of its cannon. It has to be perilously close to your opponent’s lines in order to shoot, putting it at the risk of return fire from any melta weapons arrayed against you.

The hull heavy flamer is the best option here as the tank is already in close proximity to the enemy. Therefore should it lose its main gun, it isn’t too far away from roasting an infantry squad or two.

Leman Russ Punisher

+ Heavy 20 is cool.
– No AP.
– Short range.
– BS3.
– Expensive.

Optimal loadout: Hull heavy bolter.

The much maligned Punisher possibly holds the position, along with the Exterminator, as the worst variant available. The heavy 20 gun looks nice on paper, and the S5 means a lot of those hits will transfer into wounds, but the lack of an AP coupled with a criminally short range really hampers the overall performance of the tank. Designed to be anti-infantry it needs at the very least an AP value and/or rending to be halfway decent at its job. It can be used to throw a bunch of wounds on monstrous creatures in the hope that one or two will stick, but then you realize your paying 180 points for the privilege and you go and buy a pair of Hydras instead.

Leman Russ Executioner

+ Heavy 3 plasma cannon!
– Most expensive variant available.

Optimal loadout: Hull lascannon w/ plasma cannon sponsons

The Executioner can throw down entire star systems worth of pain onto an enemy unit. Being able to churn out a potential 5 plasma cannon blasts can reduce squads of Terminators to molten puddles in seconds. As the Guard have only one other way to field plasma cannons, the Executioner truly stands alone as a variant with no competition anywhere else in the codex. Its ability to dish out the hurt is well documented pretty much everywhere, so expect it to come under a lot of fire-power as your opponent desperately tries to shut down those blast templates.

All this destruction comes at a price, and the Executioner is the most expensive tank you can purchase, even more so when it is decked out with plasma sponsons and a hull lascannon. You pay the points for all that AP2 death, but when you wipe 2-300 points of Terminators/Sanguinary Guard/Death Company off the table, you’ll be happy you broke the bank to bring along a tank such as this.

Well, there you have it; a run-down of the different Leman Russ variants, the pros and cons of each tank, and how I feel each one could be used to maximize its effectiveness on the table.


4 Responses to “An Assessment of the Lemun Russ Battle Tank by Nathan Oldacres”

  1. Digital Unicorn July 30, 2011 at 00:11 #

    Sterling as always Mr Oldacres, a fine read.

    No hull heavy flamer on the Eradicator?

    Also has any one else noticed that GW ran the awesome name well dry naming all these variants? They’ve alll got the most badass names ever.

    • Lycaeus_Wrex July 30, 2011 at 04:28 #

      The only reason I didn’t recommend a h. flamer on the Eradicator is because of the 36″ range on the cannon. To get the most use out of the h. flamer you’d end up moving the tank a *lot*. Whereas the h. bolter has the exact same range, AP and S value, so seemed to be the choice that meshed most naturally with the main cannon.

      L. Wrex (aka N. Oldacres)

      • Digital Unicorn August 2, 2011 at 10:49 #

        Fair one, i’d confused it with the Hellhounds gun when u compared it to a 36′ flamer, yer, HB is probs the best option

  2. Martin Moffat July 30, 2011 at 18:12 #

    A good read, however IMO the best LR is a standard LRBT with Plasma sponsons and a HF hull.

    Use this tank to shoot most infantry (perhaps not terminators) and it is fantastic. Most units will not get a FnP save to anything you shoot at range and the HF is just there in case of Genestealers (as you don’t want an AP4 HB shooting things with the main weapons).

    Best thing about this tank is it is 190 points and as such is under the magical 200pts mark. IMO once you go over this it is a bit of a waste in points.

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