GW: Astra Militarum Don’t Need No Stinking Conscripts

Lets talk about why Astra Militarum players shouldn’t be worried about the nerf to Conscripts and Commissars.

Since 8th came out one of the mainstays of Astra Militarum lists has been a wall of conscripts backed up by Commissars. This powerful build has however fallen apart under the double hammer of new Codex changes AND an errata. While some might see the loss of this combo as crippling to the Guard, or at least to horde builds, it is in fact not. Lets take a look at what happened, and why I don’t think it’s a big deal.

The Codex Change

Back in my day…

The first major change to this combo came with the new codex. While Commissars remained unchanged, still letting units pass morale tests for the loss of a model, conscripts suffered. The codex dropped their max size from 50 to 30 and made it so they only got an orders effect on a 4+. While this was a big nerf it didn’t totally kill the combo. Still it made it less desirable and efficient.

The Errata

The killing blow came in the new AM FAQ. This was a major change to how commissars worked, now rather than passing a test a single unit can, at the cost of a model, re-roll a morale test. Not only does this make the ability a lot worse it also limited it to one use a turn. In effect this killed the unbreakable conscript horde and made the commissar pretty useless.

A Bad Change

Actual Guard players after reading the FAQ 

Lets get this out of the way now. I think the errata to commissars was horrible. Perhaps commissars did need to be toned down. I personally don’t really think they needed to be, but I can understand that part of my resistance to the change is simply being an old Guard player and not wanted them changed. They have after all had this ability for several editions. And really I’d say the biggest issues was not that they let a unit only suffer one loss, but that they did it to all units in their aura. I think a much better change would have simply been to say once per turn a unit within 6″ can suffer one casualty to pass a moral test.

As it stands, Commissars got pretty junky. Losing a model to reroll a is not always a good trade. And it’s not even optional! If you get in a situation where you cannot pass your test the commissar could make you reroll a 1, making it worse, and force you to kill an additional model as well. Oh well, you don’t need em anyway.

A Valid Replacement?

So whats a poor guard general to do now that her conscripts aren’t any good? Never fear I say, Infantry Squads are here to save the day! Yes, Infantry Squads with their loyal guardswomen are the answer to your problems. And really they are a very valid replacement, if you take them stripped down. Lets compare: A unit of 30 Conscripts with a Commissar to back them up costs 120 pts. 3 ten woman Infantry Squads with no upgrades also costs 120 points. So you get just as many bodies (minus the commissar) but with a better stat line, hitting on 4+s. Leadership 7 on the squads means they won’t just melt away from morale, and it’s pretty easy to get them to an 8 or 9 with banners and Mordains, etc. It also gives you the flexablity of having more units on the table.

No Conscripts here

In addition by playing an MSU army you can have the same number of models but its far more likely that the enemy will waste shots over-killing ten guardspersons then they will shooting into 30 conscripts. Overall you can still put just as many bodies on the table. You might be a little more vulnerable to morale effects, but you will also be more effective at dealing damage. Yes you are less efficient at receiving commands, needing 3 commands rather than 1 to affect 30 models, but you also don’t have a chance that those commands will fail. In addition you do a better job of filling out detachments and thus getting more command points.

The Pitfall of Upgrades

I think one of the big mistakes people can make is feeling like they have to give units upgrades. Yes you totally can give every Infantry Squad you take a Heavy and Special weapon. And yes this will totally make them more deadly. It will also make them more expensive. The key is to think about what the goal of that unit is. If the goal is just be a meatshield and die then is there really a point to paying points for upgrades? Sometimes you just need bodies and buying base 40 points Infantry Squads for that is complacently valid. It’s fine to buy weapon upgrade for you squad, but all you really need is flashlights.

Life After Conscripts

So there you have it. I hope I’ve pointed out that though the loss of unbreakable conscripts is hard to bear there is a way forward. Not all is lost! The generals of the Astra Militarum still have plenty of options and a horde of Infantry Squads can be just as good as one of Conscripts. So, just remember, do not despair and:

Let us know what you think about the Astra Militarum FAQ, and how they can still build horde lists, down in the comments! 

  • Randy Randalman

    This is absurd. Conscripts still cost the same amount of points, still can be issued Orders, a dollar can still be essentially fearless by going Valhalla and giving an officer the Mk 45, spending 1 CP to only lose D3 guys to Morale, or 2 CP to automatically pass bravery. It wasn’t a nerf; it was a fix. They were becoming a far too efficient staple in anything with keyword , not just Astra Militarum. It simply wasn’t fair to any opponent to have to trade down so inefficiently without possibility of breaking the line.

    • 40KstillRulesTheTT

      I’m a guard player who totally agrees ! Conscripts are still better than gaunts (tera + horma), IMO of guard + nid player

      • Karru

        This has been my argument regarding the Conscripts vs Infantry Squads right now.

        I really see no reason to spent the points for bringing in Commissars these days, instead of them I am bringing in 2 fully upgraded Infantry Squads. I would also prefer bringing in more targets instead of concentrating them on one, which is one of the major differences between taking 30 Conscripts + Commissar instead of taking 30 bareboned Guardsmen. Instead of 1 target which the enemy can just focus on to kill through Morale or cripple to the point of absolute uselessness, the enemy has to now spread his fire across multiple units that only have 1 less Morale than a Commissar would give them so you don’t need him with these guys

        Then you have the increase in damage potential. While 6 Lasguns isn’t really that threatening, the addition of the Grenade Launcher and the hidden heavy weapons such as a Missile Launcher more than make up for it. Especially now with the Split Fire being part of the core rules, Infantry Squads are insanely more cost effective than they have ever been. No longer wasting all your Lasgun shots firing at a tank or wasting the missile launcher shooting at an enemy charging at you. Sure, 4+ to hit Missile Launcher doesn’t sound that bad either, until you realise that there is usually around 8-10 of them spread across the table and you need to deal 9-10 wounds before you can remove one. (including morale)

        While I fully agree with the fact that they needed to do something about the Conscripts and the Commisar, I still don’t think this was the right choice. I honestly still believe they went too far.

        They could have easily made it so that Commissars still negate Morale Loss, for example make it so that you can never lose than D6 models to Morale if the Commissar is next to them or something. The +1 Ld to most Guard Infantry Units, 1 automatic loss and forced re-roll on the Morale Dice even if you rolled low was a bad decision.

    • It was a bad fix. Commissars are now a Leadership bubble with a drawback in codex with plenty of other options. Making the re-roll optional would have been better, and might have kept the unit on tables.

      • Nyyppä

        Still cheaper and better than dark apostles. How hilarious is that?

        • Pretty sure GW has some kind of rule that at least a couple of units in each faction have to be bad at what they are supposed to be good at.

          • Nyyppä

            Likely. Though in CSM’s case this also means that 1/9 of the factions in the codex are useless. 1/9 is not bad though. It’s a lot better than 100%/100% what it used to be.

    • GWELLS

      Dont forget that auto passing morale psychic power Guard have, or Draconian Disipline warlord trait to bring back old summary execution basically. THere are tons of ways to bring back auto-passing for conscripts. And it makes the Valhallan rule relavant again. You don’t stricly need a Commisionar for blob conscripts. You just need to be more creative.

  • Dennis J. Pechavar

    It’s too bad but I figured the points I saved by no longer taking Commissars can now be spent on more Conscripts. So in the end I’ll actually have even more of them to deal with the ton I’ll lose to morale failings.

    • euansmith

      “Send in the next, next, next wave!”

      • Dennis J. Pechavar

        Meatgrinder baby!

        • euansmith

          “First rank, fire! Second rank, fire! Third rank, fire! Fourth rank…”

          “Um… sir, aren’t you supposed to tell each rank to kneel after firing?”

          • Jared van Kell

            “Don’t worry Jenkins. Plenty more where they came from.”

          • Dennis J. Pechavar

            Well as the fact is that you are picking up the rifle from the dead Guardsman in front of you…no.

  • Simon Bates

    You should not really lose more models to the re-roll than you would have done anyway. If you can’t pass the morale test, then skip the first roll altogether and remove one extra model. As you’re using the Commissar’s leadership, you won’t be Amy worse off than if he’d bit been there and with conscripts you will be significantly better off.

    As to occasions when you do have to make the first roll statistically these balance out. If it helps, think of the first roll as the pass/fail and ignore the actual casualties. The re-roll gives you a second chance to pass at a cost which is negated by the Commissar’s leadership being used instead of the unit’s. While you may feel like you’re worse off if the re-roll is worse than the original roll, it’s on a very just as likely to give you a better result as a worse one. You are replacing one random D6 roll with another they are wholly interchangeable from a statistical point of view.

    Otherwise, though, I’m with you on making the case for regular infantry. Conscripts should have their uses but they should not be so efficient that they render guardsmen redundant.

    • Puppet Soul

      Conscripts weren’t more efficient than regular Guardsmen at anything except taking wounds though.

      For 121 points you got 30 conscripts and a commisar.

      For 135 points you get 30 guardsmen with 3 mortars mixed in.

      If you were even remotely interested in using them offensively, the guardsmen are better. But they’re not as good as command squads, HWTs, or artillery pieces, so you’d never take a guard squad offensively.

      And if you just wanted bodies to turn sideways when they face smitespam, the conscripts screen far better, allowing you to remove wounds from the opposite side of the board from the one being pushed. So you would never take guardsmen defensively.

      This change simply eliminates conscripts outside of taking a specialized detachment with a Valhallan Company Commander with Petrov’s 45 artifact to oversee the sea of conscripts. This costs you a command point (since you’re going to be taking the Aquilla on somebody as an autoinclude), but is otherwise more efficient than conscripts previously were, as you don’t need to purchase a commisar.

  • uatu13

    IG don’t need any stinking meat-sacks! Armored Company FTW!

  • spla5hmummy

    You didn’t mention that infantry squads are a cheaper way to unlock command points. Not the hugest benefit but definitely a factor. It’s why I’ve always preferred them.

    • Chris Hilliard

      “In addition you do a better job of filling out detachments and thus getting more command points.”

  • RocketScience80

    I don’t run any conscripts/commissars in my AM army anyways, but what bothers me is that its an unnecessary rule and does not improve morale by taking a commissar. Just a reroll which may even be for the worse, at the cost of one additional dude. Better as some people suggest, 1D6 MW on the unit to automatically pass morale. fair and square.

    • happy_inquisitor

      Well the commissar does improve morale to 8 – then that benefit is offset for heavy casualties by the need to shoot someone. So it is a fairly weak bubble of improved leadership – but then its a cheap model so why would you rationally expect it to be better than weak?

      I think some AM players got carried away with how good this combo was and started to feel a sense of entitlement about it – when really it was just too strong for the good of the game as a whole. The real thing here is that it was utterly dull and boring to play against a mass of fearless conscripts slowly moving forward onto the objectives while artillery pound you to dust. A game can get by with many flaws but being dull and boring is not one it can get away with.

      • RocketScience80

        Valid point… It IS boring 😉 Although i’d also prefer to have the option to roll, not a forced roll. Maybe they’ll change that at least..

        • happy_inquisitor

          The whole “Great War” approach to the game was very fluffy in a way but dull, dull, dull. I played historicals for many years and if one period stood out for being unsupported in games it was WW1 – for the reason that playing trench warfare would be incredibly boring. Allowing their main game to become like that – which was clearly at risk of happening – would have been a bad mistake by GW.

      • There are lots of ways to get a Ld8 bubble without spending 30 points. A Regimental Standard effectively gives an Ld8 bubble and it’s a 5 point upgrade. A Russ can give a Ld9 bubble for 2 CP (or can be combined with the Standard for Ld10.
        My problem with this nerf is that it makes the Commissar pointless. Making the re-roll optional would go a long way towards making the unit see the table again. I’ve wanted units to get nerfed before, but I’ve never wanted them to be at a level where they won’t see that table. I think that’s petty.

        • Karru

          Precisely. The main issue really isn’t that the Conscripts themselves are bad, quite the opposite the nerf they came up with made them actually balanced, but the Commissars are basically useless additions to the army.

          Sure, you could argue that in both cases that the Commissar can hide unlike the Standard in a Command Squad, but all that really means is that you just hide them in ruins out of LoS. The Command Tank is something that I actually didn’t think of that much because I don’t really use Tanks, but that is actually very valid point.

        • happy_inquisitor

          I can kill a standard-bearer or Russ from across the table, for 30 points the commissar hides behind his character keyword 😉 I do agree that AM players have plenty of options, I am looking forward to seeing them on the table instead of the so-good-nothing-else-matters commissar.

          I agree that it is one of the weaker things in the AM codex now – but that is currently the top-dog codex and is stuffed with super-efficient things. The commissar is pretty much on the middle of the power-curve for the game as a whole and only looks bad to AM players because so much of their stuff is so far ahead of that curve.

          • The codex overall is fine. I’m just not a fan of units that are bad at what they are supposed to be good at. I’ll also admit that I suspect most of the angst against Guard comes from Eldar and SM players that are unaccustomed to having their dominance challenged. I’m hoping Orks also get a boost in their Codex rules, making them a top dog codex as well. The tears of the 40k oligarchs are delicious.

      • Chad Underdonk

        Most longstanding Guard players were not bothering with conscripts in the first place. Commissars, yes. Conscripts, no. Once you’ve been on a deployment or two and stop taking your marching orders from the “Astropathic Choir” it is obvious that 20 Guardsmen with minimal upgrades far exceed Conscripts in value on the table.

        • Fredddy

          Guess I am in the minority of longstanding guard players then, playing conscripts&comissars since 4th 😛 They had their role in the army: holding the attackers until the Infantry squads and HWSs finished the job. 50% conscripts, 50% infantry squads was a balanced ratio an all-infantry army could effectively operate.

          • Chad Underdonk

            I’d rather just field 200 screaming Valhallans loaded for bear and not worry about fielding cannon fodder.

            Chew through all you want, the ones behind them have got just as much firepower as the first ones!

          • Fredddy

            Gunline has been an outdated concept for infantry IG way before 8th ed. I run my 200 men strong army in two parts: 130 of them are attacking with lasguns and flamers, 70 of them are the fire support with mostly lascannons (I have 18 of them) and plasma guns. And I shoehorned 3 LRs and 2 Sentinels into the list, these are only support units, the LRs are especially handy in soaking up the enemy heavy weapon fire from the HWSs.

          • Chad Underdonk

            Conscripts also make zero sense fluff wise. They should only be planetary defenders, never regimental.

          • Fredddy

            The Imperial Guard is so big that almost everything makes sense fluffwise from mutants to cyborgs and pike armed infantry. Filling the ranks with fresh recruits is far from the wildest concept. (Id like to see a proper PDF list though with PDF units armed with outdated weapons, crazy guerillas and gang militia.)

          • Chad Underdonk

            The reason it doesn’t make sense in anything but a PDF force is because of the way the Planetary Governors are held responsible for the quality of their troops by the Administratum. Only the most suicidal Governors would send anything less than their best troops off world because if those regiments are found wanting the Governor would be executed.

            Thus the only conscripts you would find would be those that are members of the planetary defense force protecting their own worlds. Even whiteshields wouldn’t be found off of Cadia…and Cadia doesn’t even exist anymore.

        • Lebowski1111111111

          Do you mind me asking than why you think top tournament players were taking conscripts in their imperial soup lists and not 20 guardsman?

          • Chad Underdonk

            It was a no thinking no risk strategy. If you have troops that are worthless as anything other than holding ground and catching bullets, you’ll only use them to hold ground and catch bullets. You won’t be tempted to use them for other things.

            They also scare the hell out of those who buy into the meta concept and are unwilling to change their armies for the realities of 8th edition “horde-hammer.”

            I see folks here in the shop getting mind-lock on the whole concept of big cheap squads that aren’t vulnerable to morale. Simple changes, and steady work tames those tactics. What are they going to do when Orks or Nids start fielding giant units? Go crying on the internet again trying to replicate their “nerf it” strategy?

          • Mr.Gold

            I wish them lick with the new nids codex then – it looks like you can get 40 termagaunts in a squad, which are fearless within synapse…

  • ellobouk

    I did run commissars, but not conscripts.

    I no longer run commissars, points get spent on other things, I’m thinking more psykers.

  • Rayna M. McCowan

    2 Wound Commissars, Make it so when you execute someone you lose d3 less models, lord commissar sticks with current wound count and is d6 (because people fear him more). Would have been my preferred way to handle it. Commissar’s wounds are brought into line with other IG Elite solo models (and allows armies with snipers to snipe him). Allow normal Commissar’s to only use their ability once per turn, Lords twice. This effectively creates a tax for going horde but allows it to still work if you want to try to mitigate morale, while allowing for some armies to negate your morale mitigation. It keeps it fluffy as well.

    This is coming from someone who runs Veterans in Chimeras since 6th and really didn’t like all the people jumping on the Conscript bandwagon. Like a unit to hold an area with a Commissar? Sure, but some of what was going on was bonkers and I did feel Conscripts backed up with a Commissar were off. Hell I felt Commissars were off in general after seeing them having 3 wounds to everyone elses 2 in the elite slots and a Commissar want’s to be in back so he can’t get sniped.

  • robert-reynolds

    It’s a stupid nerf but what the article should address is that there are plenty of other competetive builds Im rocking deepstriking scions and assassins with a firebase its working nicely 🙂

  • Rob brown

    Great to see a more positive article (albeit we get that some people don’t like the commissar rule – though now Russ’s fire twice so hey ho). Also great to see guardswomen being argued as a valid stratagey. If you weren’t using them wouldn’t that be weird. The equivalent of a skaven army made up of slaves without any clanrats (if you’ll pardon the fantasy analogy).

    • Fergie0044

      Or all cultists with no chaos marines or all poxwalkers with no plague marines….what a laughable notion!

  • Simon Chatterley

    I had 10 infantry squads in my AM army and I still do. The conscripts nerf made no difference to my life at all

    • Muninwing

      my Guard army has less than 40 infantry models in it… and crests 3000 points. Armored Company is fun. i don’t even own a single conscript or Commissar.

      i haven’t played then yet in 8th, but from all accounts i think they’ll be fun once i have the time to bring them.

  • James Regan

    the easiest fix to the new commisar rules is add the words ‘may be’ instead of ‘is’. Then it’s always a choice as to wether you want the re-roll. bit less theme-y, but game wise would work allright, and stops guard from ignoring morale completely by having enough commissars. A unit that’s been blow apart will still lose some to morale, but you’d be able to choose whether you wanted to try for a better roll

  • Drpx

    The real reason Guard don’t need Conscripts is because the meta still favors massed firepower from cheap, disposable units of which they have plenty. Also smite spam from primaris Psykers.

    • Muninwing

      getting rid of (or at least curtailing) smite spam would actually be a far better fix for the game right now…

      • generalchaos34

        oh I have a feeling that Nids might be helping with stopping smite spam

        • Rob brown

          I know, Kronos fleets warlord ability to cause 1d3 mortal wounds on a failed psyker test within 18” is going to sting on psykers rolling 1d6 for smites and the 1CP That also forces any psychic test on 1d6. Particularly with the -1 to psychic tests for anyone within 18” of synapse.

          To be fair it’s awesome fluff and finally the oppressive force of the hive mind is being realized in game terms. There are a lot of psyker heavy armies that will really struggle against this I reckon.

  • sethmo

    Maybe do not put imperial political officers next to rag tag conscripts?

    They work perfectly fine next to a ten model unit.

    • Mateusz Kuzio

      Its better to take another clean unit instead of useless commissar.

  • silashand

    Didn’t need to be changed? Yeah, blow some more smoke up my whatever. About the only thing I agree with is the mandatory re-roll. It should be optional. Otherwise the change is as it should be.

  • Nyyppä

    Well, they are now in line with CSM with no way to keep the troop blobs in the game. Nids and Orks still need to be toned down and we have a solid “MSU is the only way to play” company line established for this edition.

    • Rob brown

      Nids have been buffed not toned down. Parties are happening in Nid households all over the world as finally decades of ignominy have ended!

      • Nyyppä

        Yeah. That does not mean that there is no erratas coming….

  • becizzle

    Now all they have to do is nerf tank commanders being able to give orders to other tank commanders. In fact, actually, nerf characters being able to receive orders. Also, a look at how many orders these armies generate should also take place There are too many. It slows the game down. It makes the “humble” guardsman into the most elite infantry force in the game. Fluffy? Nope.

    • Chad Underdonk

      Orders are far less efficient than the Charaer AOE buffs that most other armies get. People always conveniently forget their own characters (and added buffs) when making these hypothetical comparisons.

      Be glad the guard are limited to only having orders instead of effective AOE buffs like other armies. If we have learned nothing else from Poxwalkers, it is how easy it is to wrap multiple squads into a buffing character(s) to make them all much better than their points would suggest.

  • Doc Noble

    I love how so many IG complainers just forgot that other troop options existed in their codec when conscripts got nerfed. I have zero pity for players that need broken combos to feel like their already overpowered army is viable. I direct those players to have a conversation with necron players for a little perspective.

    • Chad Underdonk

      “Other troop options?”

      Yeah, all 2 other choices. Guard Infantry Squads, and Scion Squads.

      You’re right though, conscripts when used en masse (particularly in imperial soup) are just a crutch to try and force those who haven’t adapted to “Horde-Hammer” to choke on their mistake.

      • DoctorBored

        The amount of options you can give those Scions and Infantry Squads are incredible compared to options like Dire Avengers, Tactical Marines, or even Chaos Space Marines. They’re also incredibly cheap, as pointed out above.

        • Chad Underdonk

          Craftworld Eldar don’t count, they are intentionally one dimensional. (Dark Eldar have as many choices or more as Guard Infantry.)

          Tactical marines have just as many choices as Guard Infantry Squads.

          Chaos Squads have just as many options as Scions (actually more).

          Guard are pointed per their traits, so that’s a non-starter.

          • becizzle

            The ability to receive orders aren’t factored into their points. That should change. Voice of command also doesn’t seem to be pointed for their characters because they are extremely cheap as well.

          • Chad Underdonk

            The ability to receive orders is no different from the ability to receive AOE buffs from characters (which the Guard do not have). In point of fact it is worse. The only army I listed above without good AOE buffs is the Dark Eldar. The rest gain as much or more from their commanders as Guard do. Should each squad of Marines or Eldar have to pay extra based upon what MIGHT happen because of characters that they may or may not play?

  • 9breaker

    Fluffwise the change makes sense. Having a Commissar hanging around suddenly made your freshly conscripted troops less likely to run from battle than a Primaris Marine (sure you pop one in the head, but 3 pts is not a big loss). As it stands, they have the equivalent to ATSKNF.

  • CRL1981

    I disagree about the assessment of Commissars, they aren’t “pretty junky”, they are an active detriment to you army. Imperial Guard have terrible leadership. It isn’t hard to kill 4 Conscripts automatically increasing their losses by d6. This is the same for your standard run of the mill Guardsman, you really don’t have to wipe the squad and rarely will they be over shot with a leadership 7, T 3, and 5+ save. Basically what the Commissars new rule is “remove D6+1 casualties no re-rolls allowed.” Did Commissars need a nerf? Yes, how about reduce casualties by half round up, still powerful but not the active detriment that they are now.

  • Joe Shadows

    Might be worthing noting that for exactly the same Power cost as a Commissar, you can instead get a 6-model Wyrdvane Psyker squad that can make a unit immune to morale checks on a 2+ D6 roll.

    Of course, they’re still not Characters, which makes them more vulnerable to sniping, and they are otherwise useless in combat, but you’ll be able to consistently make a unit stick around, and who knows, you might even throw out a Smite on a 3+ if you’re feeling desperate (or lucky).

  • ReveredChaplainDrake

    Just a thought, what would happen if Insane Courage returned? Y’know, the double-1s on morale = auto pass, regardless of modifiers? Of course though, this would be tweaked to auto-pass on a roll of a 1, i.e. a 1/6 chance. Not only is this a sorely missing legacy rule that was never what anybody I knew would call a problem, but this seems like just the kind of thing that might get brought up in, say, Chapter Approved 2017. It would certainly make a lot of sense if you could basically sacrifice a Guardsman / Conscript to give yourself a 1/3 chance of losing nothing but that one dude, not the 100% success rate that made this combo dumb and broken in the first place.