Tuesday 12 August 2014

Astra Militarum: Priest vs commissar

For my imperial guard force I am contemplating which of the advisors I should add in to help my infantry out. The obvious choices are adding in either a few Commissars OR Ministorum priest but I don’t have the points to add in both. So the question is, which advisor do I go for?

First of all a little background on my force, it will be an infantry heavy list so my guardsmen will need a little boost to moral. I will probably be adding the model to either a large conscript squad or a combined infantry squad both of which will need to stick around to hold objectives and get in the way. Our two contenders for this role are either the humble commissar or a ministorum priest, both of whom cost 25 points, so which do I pick? Let’s go over each of them, and see.


This guy is the old staple of holding the line, in a past edition he was the go to guy. He has above average state lines for a guardsman and comes with leadership 9. The reason you take this guy is for stubborn, and summary execution. Now summary execution allows the commissar to execute a model if his unit fails a moral, fear or pinning test in order for the test to be passed. This is a small price to pay IF you fail a test, which is unlikely with stubborn leadership 9. He also has access to melee weapons, so he can bring a power weapon or fist to the fight if needed. The number of commissars you can take is directly related to the number of command squads you have, and he is not an independent character, he has to join a unit during deployment, and cannot leave that squad, though he is a character still.


A New addition to the codex, this guy has a basic profile, is an independent character and grants zeolot to his unit. Now this is very different as its essentially fearless, you automatically pass any moral tests. It also grants re-rolls to hit in the first round of combat. As standard he comes with a 4+ invulnerable save and can use hymns. His war hymns can be used if he passes a leadership test (on 7) and then he can pick to either let his unit re-roll failed saves, he gains smash, or his unit re-rolls failed to wound rolls. He doesn’t have access to anything worthwhile so is set at 25 points.  

Both of these guys are damn near the same when joining a squad; however the priest does have the edge on survivability. As he is an independent character he can look out sir on a 2+ rather than the 4+ of the commissar.  The priest comes with a 4+ invulnerable compared to the commissars 5+ armour. However this shouldn’t really be a massive issue if they have joined a large squad.

Interestingly enough something that can come up in games is going to ground and our weapons do nothing. This is where the commissar has an edge, if the unit is about to take a hard pounding, a unit lead by a commissar can go the ground and not execute someone (executing someone is optional) allowing them to get a better cover save. Also if they end up in a combat against someone they can’t hurt they can opt to fail the moral test and again not execute someone. The rules for zealot forbid both of these things from happening so the priest and his pals have to stand there and take it.

In combat the commissar will probably do more damage, especially if he takes a power weapon. The priest probably won’t do anything BUT if a hymn goes off, he can either increase the damage output from his squad, or reduce the damage.  Considering I want the unit to soak up as much as possible the priest might have the edge there.

Going over this I will probably end up trying out a priest first, as he just seems to add more to the squad than the commissar does, even though I can’t get any more than 3 of them but if something goes horribly wrong the priest can leave his unit to fight another day with someone else.    

What do you guys think? Which would you go for?


  1. For me, Commies are better for line blobs, the Ld 9 helps with orders, and go to ground is a viable tactic with an Aegis line + CCS get back into the fight.

    Priests on the other hand are better for more mobile squads that don't need support. conscripts and blobs with no heavy weapons. Or squads that don't need orders. I've seen them used with some sucsess in Vets squads. Weird as that seems.

    The other option is a Prime Psyker, who can help with Ld 9, and give some offense or defense by rolling on divination for a 4++ or twin linked. Riskier, but more flexible. two is better, but that is a major list choice.

    Of course the last word in addons is Mr. Commisar Yarrick. His ability to give his own unit orders on his Ld 10 is a major addition in my mind, CCSs survivability has always been an issue. Throw in his EW and 4++ he his hard to kill. His locked warlord trait is aslo very handy.

    If you do the math, a CCS+chimera for survivability and a commisar is actually more expensive. Yarrick is still expensive, but a solid choice non the less.

    Also plain Inquisitors should be mentioned, they are very cheap, can be psykers and have very good leadership. I'd try and not be cheesy and model the army a bit, but they are in the same price range.

    1. I didn't think about an order perspective, and you are right aboyt whether using the guy as either offensive or defensive.

      I think I might have to try both out, especially the commi with defence line.

  2. Don't priests have Eviscerators? So they come with a powerfist essentially?

    1. Not any longer.
      *Inquisition* priests still get access to the Eviscerators (a two-handed powerfist with Armourbane) as well as a whole list of other options.
      Priests chosen from the Astra Militarum list, though, can't choose the eviscerator. They only have two upgrades - the free autogun or the pricey plasma gun. The advantage is that the gun is in *addition* to their existing weapons - they don't replace the laspistol or close combat weapon to get it, so you'll still get an extra attack in combat. I wouldn't be surprised if this last feature gets FAQed in the future.
      I wouldn't recommend the plasma gun. BS3 shooting, and you're risking the life of your 25 point priest for it - you know, that guy that gives tasty bonuses to the whole squad as long as he's alive. If you want a plasma gun, there are cheaper (and perhaps more accurate) soldiers to give it to.

  3. A third option is the Inquisitor; same price for Stubborn Ld 10, upgradeable to a Psyker for a total cost of 55 pts. This is only 5 pts more than a Primaris and also fulfills the Commissar role.