Back in the dark past, when most of you had not been born, when MTV actually did play music videos and I wore a pale cream dinner jacket to impress to my first girlfriend with jeans and loafers. (
Of course times have now changed, and Space Marine Chaplains no longer watch Commissars to ensure they are enforcing the religious as well as technical teachings of the Imperial Cult…. (Yes children it was so in the dark past before the word Ecclesiarch dared rear its head!) However not everything changes, one game fundamental mechanic for the Imperial Guard has not altered once since RT. The ability of the Commissar to stand firm, raise his bolt pistol or las pistol and calmly execute a fleeing officer or guardsman and rally the squad or forces about him. For a 15 year old kid, this was the height of coolness, killing your own men to ensure the others fought on. What evil! What arrogance! What fun! Today I pay attention to what is probably my second favourite of all my figures and characters in the 40k universe, the Imperial Guard Commissar.
In 5th edition the Commissar has again been moulded to suit both the fluff and rules. There are now two versions. Our Lord Commissar inspired by the novels of the BL and the standard Commissar. (Technically there are another 3 types, the Inspector General Commissar is responsible for all Commissars across the Imperium, some PDF forces have their own versions and the training squads which instead of classical black and red have blue piping and headbands on their uniforms and hats to denote their cadet rank). (Note I am ignoring Yarrick as Special Characters really are not my idea of a sound tactical game plan 90% of the time).
The Lord Commissar
"You have the honour of serving me, now!"
For an Infantry General the Lord Commissar is an interesting choice. He does not grant you the ability to issue a single order, he is alone standing on the field and he costs more than a 4 man Platoon Command Squad. However his abilities can be devastating when employed correctly. I have always used one as a HQ choice, and I champion him in any Infantry army list I am asked to comment on. He isn’t bad in other lists either. The Lord Commissar (LC) has the unique ability to give a bubble affect to leadership. This is for the most part, a godsend to the guard. With leadership 10, I have no need if he is positioned correctly to even bother with a Vox ever. Orders go calmly through to the HWS and are executed without failure and I do not have to buy Voxes with regular platoons.
Although by no means a Demon Prince on the field, when he leads a unit of elite forces like Storm Troopers or Veterans, he becomes a fighter which can match most mid sized enemies and even with a PF can put a serious scare into senior members of the Nid Codex. However I don’t see this as his prime use for an Infantry general. Where he is best suited is sitting still behind the lines ensuring that no guardsmen run. If you use 10 man squad deployments, he can cover usually two squads, the PCS and the CCS all safely. As an individual however he is open to attack on the field, he should be joined with another unit to protect him and maximize his abilities.
He could be placed with a Special Weapons Squad. If he is, he becomes a powerful counter punch unit while protecting less able units like HWT. If the SWS are armed with melta guns or flamers he can easily take out large swathes of attackers, flankers or even Deep Strikers.
However, he can also be used on the offense. With a large unit of 30 guardsmen the Lord Commissar becomes a fighting force to be reckoned with even against Chaos and Tyranid Warriors. If he is placed with a penal unit and a PCS with standard and enough hand weapons are thrown about, he can frighten orks easily enough too. (I don’t do this myself, but I have seen it done and although clumsy in my mind, it’s doable).
Rank and File Commissar.
"If you will not serve in combat, then you will serve on the firing line!"
The standard and still effective use since the days of RT have been for this guy is to stop people running away. He does this quite well as long as you’re aware of where to stick him. The easiest methodology when fighting a competitive game is to place him in the platoon second squad. If you use my 20 man platoon method, then it gives all 20 men the ability to be stubborn. This fact alone makes him worthwhile. It stops your unit from breaking and running. I have sent 20 men with a Commissar to certain death at the hands of a Tau gunline and watched as they refused to waiver as their numbers dwindled. However it’s a scoring unit…. And if you have 60men with 3 commissars all marching forward, your opponent in the age of mech warfare will not have enough pie plates if any… to stop you all from contesting or reaching that objective.
Never place the Commissar with a PCS or CCS. Why?! He will add to the fight! No… he is more likely to shoot your officer, if you lose a sgt… no big deal. But you don’t want Creed being executed under any circumstances, and I have seen it done… too many things lower leadership for this not to be a risk in 5th edition.
Weapons and Equipment for your Commissar.
"Glory for the first man to die! Charge!"
The Lord figure comes armed with a bolt pistol and power sword, not a bad mix. I think this pretty much is standard fare for the Commissar unless you are going CC in which the Powerfist is a much better option. Never give them Plasma Pistols! They die too and their toughness won’t save them.
Other uses for your Commissar figures…
One thing I have noted over the years is people wanting to use the Commissar figures or close to them in themed armies and use the figure in their own forces. Some ideas as they are pretty cool figures are;
They make exceptional Retinue figures for Inquisitors in general.
For Mordian Iron Guardsmen they make excellent Officers.
The Mordian Iron Guard still available on GW, when painted black with blue piping or even red standard make excellent Cadet Commissars. (Veterans spring to mind here but you could do an entire army).
They make excellent RT generals and leaders and the former Valhalla Lt figure is probably one of the most easily converted to full Commissariat look.