First, the good news. GW are paying more attention to 40K game results, balance and feedback than ever before, and the new Astra Militarum FAQ 1.0 is part of the proof of that. They have fixed brand new issues like the Ogryn bodyguards palming wounds off onto one another in an infinite circle, dubbed the “Ogryn Hyperloop”.
They have also made some sensible changes like ‘Take Cover! Change the first sentence of this stratagem to read: ‘Use this Stratagem in your opponent’s Shooting phase when your opponent selects one of your Astra Militarum Infantry units as a target.’ – so it will no longer be useable by any other armies that happen to ally in some Guard -and remember that included everything from Ultramarines to GSC Tyrannids. It’s (IMHO) a shame it was simultaneously changed to infantry only, because it was briefly available to Rough Riders and camouflaged tanks, but on the whole it’s a good change.
Now the bad news: They have responded to the widely held opinion that Conscripts + Commissars were too powerful for their points cost by almost invalidating them, and in a way that is so heavy-handed I personally think it will require its own errata -and soon.
The new Commissar FAQ:
Pages 90 and 101 – Commissar Yarrick, Lord Commissar and Commissar, Summary Execution Change to read: ‘Summary Execution: The first time an Astra Militarum unit fails a Morale test during the Morale phase whilst it is within 6″ of any friendly Commissars, one model of your choice in that unit is slain and the Morale test is re-rolled (do not include this slain model when re-rolling the Morale test).’
IMHO adjusting the power of Commissars and Conscripts is a good idea, but this particular rule change is far from perfect.
Let’s look at how this actually plays.
- A conscript unit near a Commissar takes, let’s say, 14 wounds.
- The unit is required to take a morale test.
- It uses the Commissar’s leadership of 8.
- Roll a dice: the score is a 1. This is a fail (by 7)
- The Commissar must shoot a Conscript. BLAM!
- The dice must be rerolled.
- Roll a dice: the score is a 6. This is a fail (by 12)
12 Conscripts die, plus the one who was shot before the reroll, for a total of 13.
“Yay, conscripts die! Rejoice enemies of the Imperium, those cheap b@st@rds had it coming!”
A totally understandable sentiment for any Heretic or Xenoscum, but with that celebration out of the way, it should be pretty clear what’s wrong with this rule: it forces a casualty and then forces a reroll of any failed morale test on a unit that very frequently fails morale tests. The result will often be an increase in casualties taken, and the player has no control over this: they can’t keep the result of an initial low roll.
Commissars are support models that range from 31 to 55 to 130pts. They have just one job (reducing the amount of models that flee after casualties), and they now have the potential to do the opposite.
This helpful robot may have done your army a favour.
Even most people who wanted Conscripts adjusted again for balance reasons won’t like the idea of a unit that is purchased at a cost having a potentially negative impact on the player’s army, and such a big swing in a unit’s power so soon after its Codex release makes purchasers nervous.
What’s likely to happen
The FAQ is likely to be changed to make Summary Execution optional, so that the player isn’t forced to kill a model to reroll a dice they really would prefer not to. That’s a much more palatable change that doesn’t remove control from the player’s hands in such a frustrating way.
The truth is that even with this the Commissar goes from a competitive choice to a poor one. The casualty levels 5+ T3 units take are so high that Commissars become not worth taking. Even with this change to make it optional you’re paying the price of 10 to 18 conscripts (31-55pts) to save up to 4 (1 in 36 times when you rolled the worst possible roll of 6, followed by best possible roll of 1, but also losing the one you just killed), with a chance to increase the amount you kill every time.
They might even change the first sentence ‘The first time an Astra Militarum unit fails a Morale test during the Morale phase whilst it is within 6″ of any friendly Commissars’ in advance of people asking what happens in a subsequent turn when they fail a Morale test (ie it’s now the second time an Astra Militarum unit has failed a Morale test during the Morale phase) or what happens to the second unit when several fail in the same turn’s morale phase (it’s now the second time an Astra Militarum unit fails a Morale test during this turns Morale phase) -sorry, I recently visited YMDC on Dakkadakka and it messes with the way you think 🙂
What I’d like to happen
- Summary Execution: Friendly ASTRA MILITARUM units within 6″ of a COMMISSAR can never lose more than D6 models as the result of any single failed Morale test.
That’s unlikely to be the change they settle on, but I might as well add it as occasionally someone from GW reads this site.* Since they are going to have to fix their FAQ they do have the opportunity to make it a fix that hurts Conscripts without invalidating anyone’s units.
Killing D6 would be much more satisfying for opponents, but still make the units worth taking.
*They do not read the site’s comments**. Don’t spam all your suggestions in hopes of getting their attention.
**We have no proof of this.
How to still run an army with a meat-shield
3++ is about tactics and not just critiquing rules, so I feel obliged to include some suggestions for people who have their forces affected by the Commissar change, which looks too messy to be permanent but could be the new reality.
Consider playing Valhallan – they just became a much more competitive option. Halving the amount of casualties taken after failing morale is now a big deal.
Consider moving your Conscripts (or infantry combined squads) to a Valhallan detachment. Your whole army doesn’t need to change for this, you just need to shift 1 or 2 HQs that don’t need your main Regiments rule and the conscripts to a different detachment. The HQs will probably need to include an officer since they must be the same regiment in order to give them orders.
Drop Commissars entirely and just add more potential casualties (aka Guardsmen)- the points are currently better spent elsewhere
Change your Warlord to to a Commissar with the Draconian Disciplinarian trait – This was also nerfed, and it costs you your Warlord option and the chance to take a better trait. However it does get you something like the commissar you’re used to, although with 1+D3 casualties now.
Add the following sentence: ‘If a Commissar has this Warlord Trait, then their Summary Execution ability takes precedence, but if the re-rolled Morale test is also failed then D3 additional models are slain and the test is then considered to have passed.’
Go Valhallan, and take Pietrov’s MK-45 pistol Relic – this gives a ‘Commissar-like’ effect to Valhallan units within 6″ without actually requiring the commissar. It’s also not a bad pistol, with a little AP-1 kick and 2 damage.
Take a ‘Commissariat Tank’ – There is a strategem that gives a tank a LD9 aura. It is expensive at 2CP and was previously seen as a pretty poor choice (well, considering what a target it paints on the tank, it still is), but at least this gets you a LD aura without executing additional men.
Officio Prefectus Command Tank 2CP
All friendly AM units within 6″ of this tank have a Leadership of 9 (unless higher).
I rated this as a mere ★½✰✰✰ in my review of the AM Strategems recently, but it’s probably going to have to be adjusted upwards now.
Mental Fortitude – A psychic ability ‘ Select a friendly ASTRA MILITARUM unit within 12″ of the psyker. Until the start of your next Psychic phase, that unit automatically passes Morale tests.’ This won’t work before your 1st turn, requires a Psyker, can be Denied, only works on 1 unit (and of course, your opponent knows which), but it is still a valid option.
Use 2 CP to pass Leadership – Expensive stratagem to use on cheap units, but it’s an option. Only works on 1 unit but at least it is after the casualty have been inflicted so you know how much you need it.
Fight to the Death! – a cheaper stratagem that costs 1 CP, and allows you to roll D3 for a morale check instead of D6. This is usually reserved for use on more expensive and/or vital units, because the CP is spent before the test, and it will save you a maximum of 3 men (on the roll of a 6) and a minimum of making 0 difference (on the roll of a 1).
Take an Inquisitor -Inquisitors are LD10 and have a special rule that most of us have ignored up til now:
“Unquestionable Wisdom: All friendly IMPERIUM units within 6″ of this model can use its Leadership characteristic instead of their own.”
This is not an ideal solution because it involves fishing a character out of a different codex, and it still doesn’t guarantee a low level of morale casualties, but it’s a leadership buff that won’t shoot you in the back of the head 😀
Take a Stormlord transport tank or massive fortification– They can’t cause casualties on units they can’t see 😀
I hope those suggestions help. Feel free to post any additional ones below.
The Astra Militarum FAQ:
Imperial Armour FAQ:
The good: Grinding advance (shoot twice at half speed) now applies to the FW Leman Russes
The bad: The Leman Russes didn’t get price adjustments to bring them inline with Codex versions, and the Macharius variants now look a lot less appealing for their prices.