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 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!