Saturday, April 26, 2014

Imperial Guard Tactics: Commissars

Alright, next unit in the HQ section.  This is you last standard HQ choice that you can take for your required HQ slot and be your warlord.  The lord commissar takes the role of a buffer for your surrounding troops and is trying to be a combat character.  I say trying as its hard to get him there without spending a decent amount of points on him.  That being said he can get you your minimum HQ and do a decent job in a fight if called on.  To be frank though, he is your second tier HQ choice if not third due to changes in aura of discipline and simply because of the other really good choices in the HQ section.

To begin lets talk about what the Lord Commissar has.  He is WS BS5 with 3 Wds, Ld 10 and 3 attacks, so 4 if you don't give him a specialist weapon.  He has a bolt pistol, frag and krak, flak armor, CCW, and refractor field.  He is an IC and has stubborn.  Aura of Discipline allows any Astra Militarum unit within 6" to use his leadership for any morale, pinning, or fear tests.  No longer does it allow it for orders, which hurts a lot of the reason for taking him.  If he is joined to the unit they get to use his leadership, but other units within 6" no longer get that important buff.  So off the bat he is actually a little worse than before.  He is 65 pts so is a little bit cheaper, but the nerf to Aura of Discipline makes it about a wash, plus with power weapons being brought up to standard pricing means he ends up being a little more expensive than before depending how you kit him out.

Now summary execution is better.  If you fail a morale, fear, or pinning check, you can choose to execute on of the unit members from the Astra Militarum codex.  This being a choice now is a great benefit.  You roll a D6 and on a 3+ you choose which model dies, on a 1 or 2 your opponent chooses.  The commissar can never execute himself though there are no restrictions from before of executing another commissar.  After the chosen model is executed, the unit passes the test automatically.  Note that any leadership rerolls that you have are done before electing to summarily execute.  The simple fact that it is a choice now and is no longer automatically killing the units leader and that it automatically passes the test makes this a lot better than the old execution rule.  You no longer have to worry about sticking him in a command squad and killing your commander, if you don't want to risk his death you don't have to execute anyone, and if you do you have a 2/3 chance of not killing an important model.

Chain of command is interesting, basically the Lord commissar can only be your warlord if you have no models with the senior officer rule in your primary detachment.  There is some debate of this on yarrick, but I'll save that for his own post as he deserves his own being a completely different animal.  So the lord commissar is rarely going to be your warlord and this is probably not a bad thing, there are better choices for that.  But if you want to take him as one, keep the above in mind.

That being said, what should you be giving him and using him, especially when regular commissars are cheaper and can join so many units and give a lot of buffs to them.  Well AoD is a sort of regimental standard, but that one is better with an additional 6" of range, so while he can buff surrounding units, he has to be close to do so.   If you are taking a lord, you should be kitting him out to fight.  Now your first option can be to just keep him cheap, slap a boltgun in his hands for free and use him for some extra shots from a squad that he can hide in.  You'll get the buffs that he gives and he'll help out with shooting with BS5 pretty well, even if only a boltgun. 

I will say that the emperors benediction is probably a must take on him, and since he is the only one that can take it, it doesn't hurt.  Its a S5 AP4 master crafted pistol with precision shots.  Its cheap at only 5 pts and is markedly better than a bolt pistol.  Unfortunately the way they worded his entry, there is no way for him to take two pistols, which would be one of the best ways to take him if the codex allowed it, unfortunately you cannot.  A plasma pistol is a good choice, but in many cases the Heirloom pistol will do you very well for a much cheaper price.  He can take special issue wargear, which includes carapace armor, melta bombs, and camo gear (he already has krak grenades).  Carapace is a good choice on him but if you are going to take one of the Heirlooms, then don't bother.  The death mask of ollianus gives him a 4++ so no need going for carapace.  IT also gives it will not die and fear.  It just feels right on a Lord commissar and is not a bad choice if you are looking to make a combat character.

Speaking of which, your going to be needing a good close combat weapon if you are going that route.  If you want a good fighter, just accept you are going to spend points on him.  So the deathmask and pistol will push him up to 100pts.  Next your weapon and you have three base choices, power weapon as your cheapest, power fist, and blade of conquest.  Each has their merits.  The power weapons are probably going to be your standard choice and there are two real choices here.  You have an axe or a maul.  Yes there are swords and spears(anyone take those?), but in the swords case the blade of conquest is a better all round choice for 10 pts more.  For me its a toughy and it depends what you want to do and also what you are commonly fighting.  I like the power maul, it makes him S5 and with 4 attacks, (5 on charge) he can kill quite a few things and you won't be struggling to wound.  The ax makes him S4 with AP2 but is unwieldy so your going to have to make sure he is in a unit that can survive the first round of attacks to hit.  Both are good choices, it is going to depend what you face more often, if you are struggling with AP2 targets then the axe may be something to look at, otherwise the power maul will do the job surprisingly well.

The power fist is the counter point to the axe, making him S6, you lose your bonus attack for pistol and ccw but increased S is worth it.  Unless you are not looking to spend a whole lot on your commissar, the power fist is a better choice than the axe.  Making it as easy as possible to wound and kill things is very important and with guardsman's low strength you need to make every hit count.  The blade of conquest and costs the same as a power fist and is another good choice since it adds +1 to your S and is AP3 and master crafted.  Its a very solid choice if you are looking at a MEQ weapon and being master crafted gives you a reroll on one of your hits, with is WS5 he is going to be hitting a lot against many targets and having that extra reroll is important.  So if you load him out like this you have the deathmask giving you a 4++ and IWND and fear, a S5 AP4 MC'd pistol, and a powerfist or blade of conquest you have a 125pt fighter that can do pretty darn well in a lot of fights. 

To make him do better, the unit he is with is very important.  The wonderful priests are important here, with giving rerolls on his invul save or to wound rolls.  To get the most his unit should have two when they go into combat.  I say when they go in to combat because since priests are ICs you do not have to stick them in a squad and keep them there.  Getting the most out of your priests is going to mean keeping them moving to squads that need them at the right time.  So if you are going to assault a unit, focus your priests on that one to maximize your combat effectiveness.  The Lord will work well in a combat oriented command squad, though you will not want to spend too many points on them as you already have on your commissar.  A power weapon on the commander will do and should be a different one than your commissar, so if taking a power fist or axe on the commissar, the commander should have a maul.  This allows you hit multiple threats.

The other unit would be a decent sized blob squad with a couple of power weapon armed sgts, again you want different weapons to give you flexibility, take something different than what the commissar has.  Throwing a priest or two with them means you can tank wounds with them rerolling their 4++ or have the sgts die on the challenge sword.  You could try and use the lord commissar in a unit of bullgryns, in the end though that is an expensive unit that is not quite a deathstar.  But it could work out well if you can keep them in the right spot and charge the right unit at the right time and is something to consider.  Priests will help keep everyone alive and wounding things. 

You want your commissar in a central location to ensure leadership buffs are going to as many units as possible and he can move forward into combat when needed.  Move him and the priests around to the units that need their combat bonuses the most and don't be static the either of them.  The main issue though is you are competing with a very good HQ section and you lose orders.  For a little more points than this loadout you can get yarrick, who solves a lot of issues that lord commissars have.  And he is a better beat stick.  So a lord commissar should be kept cheapish and use his aura of discipline as much as possible.

The other issue is that standard commissars are in many ways a much cheaper option to get a leadership boosting combat character.  They are the same price as a priest and you can throw a power weapon on them and they are still cheap.  Assign them to a blob and you can free your priests to move about to different squads and you won't have to worry about the blob breaking to morale or combat.  Standard commissars are also better combat characters for their price for a CCS, giving them an extra power weapon with decent stats and attacks. 

Standard commissars are still a good choice in my opinion.  Yes you can get priests, but only three and commissars help out by still providing the leadership bonuses and allow priests to move around and make use of their independent character status.  Also a very important thing to note is that you cannot go to ground with priests, but you can with commissars.  So do not write these guys off.  They do a similar but not the same thing as priests.  These are great units that supplement each other well and are good to have both in your army.  In my opinion priests are just about a waste in conscripts, but commissars are a great thing for them.  You have nothing special to kill so you'll always be losing a shitty conscript and you won't be breaking.  A far better choice as a priest is much better in a blob with power weapons to make sure they get those wounds in vs some WS2 boys that are really only good for drawing fire and being a pain in the ass.  A commissar with them will get you everything you want.

In the end a lord commissar is not a bad choice, but there are just better ones.  If you want him, you can keep him cheap and make the most out of his leadership boosting abilities.  As a combat character you can do well if you don't go too overboard.  Though you can make him a beast, Yarrick is beastlier for only a little more points.  Find a balance between points and combat effectiveness with the Lord commissar.  Standard commissars are better than before and will free up your precious priests to be where they are needed most and they are good in a fight to boot.  The standard commissars will make it into your lists no problem and you should be looking at them, the lord though, you are going to have to want to bring him for him to be seen.  I would like to not that he is not bad, but there is just better choices that make it hard to bring him.



  1. In case of Cain, the heirloom pistol & sword and carapace should work, it was hinted anyway by the author that he would be represented by Lord Commissar rules.
    Though Hit&Run would be his most accurate addition...

    As for the article, great summary of the usable builds.
    For the Lord Commissar, if I ever play one, the heirloom pistol should be enough.
    That way he can buff, tanking wounds or issuing challenges with T3 and even 4++ would be bad anyway, so better keep him cheap.
    Just stay in a big pile of guardsmen, use BS5, S5AP4 and Precision Shots to snipe important guys, and join a different squad when the current blob is close to death.
    Great for HWT firebases, so they won't run away when the first guy falls.

    As for the rule that Lord Commissars can't be warlord unless there's no commanding officer, that's a good addition in my eyes.
    It could be bad play-wise, but it is 100% accurate with the command structure fluff.
    Commissars are not there to issue orders, their job is to ensure that the issued orders are being followed. The commissariat is outside of the command structure, so the soldiers will only look to them when there's currently no officer of rank available.
    The last codex was inconsistent in that matter, even letting psykers lead the army, personally I'm glad that GW paid as much attention to detail instead of crudely violating the existing fluff like they did with the Raukaan Supplement.

  2. That Commissar looks like Detective/Captain Lance from Arrow. I also love his smug expression.