Tactica: Advisors

Submitted By: PaxImperator Date: December 28, 2005, 12:06:15 PM Views: 3825


Many an Imperial Guard officer will find himself joined by one or more advisors at some point in his career. Even the most capable officer can't possibly do everything his station requires all by himself. That's where these individuals and their unique skills come in. Whether it be a hard-bitten commissar, a solitary sanctioned psyker or a fanatical priest you assign to them, your officers will gain something from it.  

Rules of the Trade

Advisors are very different from most armies' HQ choices due to the advisors rule. This rule is actually a mixed blessing.

The good news is that advisors join a squad at the beginning of the game, and are considered just another squad member, rather than an independent character. This gives them great survivability, because an enemy wanting to kill an advisor will have to hack his way through an entire squad before you have to remove the advisor as a casualty. This makes advisors very suitable candidates for carrying hidden power fists or comparable weapons, where such gear is available to them. Also, advisors gain al the doctrine benefits of the squad they're assigned to. Quite useful with doctrines like hardened fighters, close order drill and the like.

The bad news is that advisors have to be assigned to squads in a very strict order. If you want a commissar in an Armoured Fist squad, you'll first have to assign commissars to all of your command squads for example. This means that it'll hardly ever be possible to assign a commissar or priest to anything but a command squad, due to the cost of multiple advisors. Only sanctioned psykers aren't too badly affected by this limitation because of their cheapness. The other disadvantage is that taking multiple advisors will limit your command squads' versatility. If you've given your command squads priests to be able to assign another one to an infantry squad, you'll then have to forget about any plans of arming your command squad with heavy weapons or rapid fire weapons and being effective with them.  

There are two basic uses for a commissar, namely leadership and assault.

Commissars should only really be taken for their leadership capacity in 1,500-point games or larger. That's because they're a rather costly solution for a problem that may not even need solving. Leadership 9 or even leadership 8 with a re-roll is already very good, and the benefit of a leadership increase becomes smaller as you move into higher leadership values. An increase from leadership 7 to 8 increases the likelihood of passing a test from 21/36 to 26/36 (by 5/36). The increase from leadership 8 to 9 increases the likelihood of passing a test from 26/36 to 30/36 (by 4/36). And the increase from 9 to 10 only increases the likelihood of passing a test from 30/36 to 33/36 (by 3/36). And that's not even factoring in the benefit of a company standard. As you can see, the benefits start getting smaller, especially when you look at the increasing cost at which they're gained. Don't let this discourage you from taking a leadership commissar however. In mostly any game of 1,500 points or more, with plenty of infantry on the table and plenty of points to spend, you'll get some use out of this increased leadership.

A leadership commissar should not carry any wargear of importance. Perhaps a power sword and bolt pistol, but nothing more than that. He's supposed to look mean and angry, not to fight. His place is in the Command HQ â€" that should have a heroic senior officer- and that should hang back, providing leadership. The commissar's bonus to the officer's leadership will give you a Ld 10 command radius. Between that and a company standard, (and possibly the nearly indispensable iron discipline,) very few squads will be fleeing the battle. The reason why you should only ever assign a leadership commissar to a heroic senior officer is that getting Ld 9 junior and senior officers may be nice, but the same effect could be achieved at a smaller cost with a junior officer with Honorifica Imperialis or a heroic senior officer.

The officer's command squad should be equipped for shooting or for hiding. Special or heavy weapons will invariably draw your opponent's attention and fire however; so don't overdo it if you're going to shoot. A command squad that's meant to hide is easily equipped, because the only weapon it might have a use for is a mortar. A power weapon for the officer could be useful in a pinch, should you be faced with deep strikers or other assault units that somehow make it through your lines. A total of two power weapons turns your formerly helpless squad into one that may just survive two assault phases, and only at a small price. The squad will already be expensive, so two power weapons won't make that great a difference to the overall cost.

When using this kind of squad, be very careful with it. Keep it safely tucked behind terrain, vehicles or at the very least lots of infantry. You really don't want it exposed and killed, because of the squad's considerable cost and its value to you for keeping your infantry in line. If possible, deploy other infantry nearby in such a way to deter deep strikers and the likes of wolf scouts. Also have a plan for the eventuality of facing enemy indirect fire weapons.

Assault commissars are meant to add a bit of extra oomph to a command squad that's going to counterassault enemy units. Such squads suffer from bad mobility, fragility and generally a high cost as well. It's therefore a good idea to consider alternatives first. Rough riders with hunting lances stand out because the only disadvantage they have in common with the counterassault command squad is fragility. You can't always field rough riders however. Doctrine and fast attack slots alike are hotly contested, so it may be necessary to opt for a counterassault command squad rather than rough riders.

If you do decide to take a counterassault command squad, keep it as cheap as possible without reducing the killing power by too much. It's likely to die, so there's no reason to tool it up a great deal. A junior or senior officer with power weapon and a few flamers in the squad is more than enough. You should try to assign the assault role to a platoon command squad rather than to your Command HQ, because the opportunity to take a well-protected company standard is too good to pass up. You will then need at least two commissars however, one for the command HQ and one for the platoon command squad. There's no perfect solution.

An assault commissar should have a power fist. The reason for taking him in the first place is to add an invisible power fist to his command squad, so there's hardly any point in looking at other weapons. You could take a power weapon, but you'd be wasting the commissar's potential as a hidden power fister. As far as wargear goes, nothing's really worth it. You can immediately disregard all of the survivability upgrades. Commissars rely on hiding behind guardsmen for their survival, not on armour, bionics and whatnot. In fact, the very worst thing you could do is giving your commissar carapace armour. It makes his squad a mixed armour unit, which means that the commissar has to roll his saves separately. That's one dead commissar in other words. As for the offensive upgrades, they all provide bonuses that aren't bad in and of themselves, but that are horribly overpriced. Just a commissar with power fist is really all you need.
Regarding the disadvantage of the Summary Execution rule, it's nothing to worry about. A leadership commissar won't execute his officer for tests that are failed by units using his leadership, and the squad itself should never have to take a leadership test anyway. Not to mention the sheer unlikelihood of you failing a leadership test if you do have to take one. On assault commissars, the Summary Execution rule need not concern you either, because the squad and officer are little more than fodder anyway.

The disadvantage that the It's For Your Own Good rule imposes isn't a true disadvantage either. It changes the chance of your psyker dying from a perils of the warp attack from 5/6 to 6/6, and the power that would've worked 50% of the time now automatically doesn't work. Big deal. Sanctioned psykers are cheap and dispensable.  

Sanctioned Psykers
As I mentioned, sanctioned psykers are cheap and expendable. That's the primary advantage they have in fact. It makes it possible to take the maximum of five so you can assign a few to squads that would normally not get an advisor. Ironically, they're not much use in units other than command squads. There are still benefits in taking five however. The fact that it gives you a better chance of getting a useful power is the chief one. It also allows you greater freedom when it comes to assigning psykers with relatively good powers to squads where they might make a difference.

Looking at the list of random powers, result 1 is obviously of no use. Telepathic order is one of the better ones, improving your officer's command ability after “just” a psychic test on a questionable leadership. Psychic ward is rubbish, hardly worth the risk of suffering a perils of the warp attack. You first have to take a psychic test on a questionable roll, after which you only cancel the enemy's power on a 4+. Also, it's rare to see psykers on the field, and those that you do see can simply use their offensive powers on other targets. Psychic lash is quite neat, giving you a chance of getting a random number of power weapon attacks. It's not much, but it beats fighting with just a laspistol and close combat weapon. Machine curse is another bad one. You first have to make a psychic test, then roll to hit, then determine the result of the hit, and only after that do you get to roll for actual damage. Lightning arc is just barely useful, giving your psyker an inferior lasgun equivalent to use after passing a psychic test. We all know how awe inspiring a single lasgun is, but at least you'll be nearly sure to get into situations where you can use it, unlike some of the other powers.

Overall, the psychic powers aren't good for much. The randomness of power selection and the psykers' less than great leadership are to blame. One way of remedying the latter problem is to assign a psyker to an infantry platoon command squad (or infantry squad if you have enough psykers) benefiting from close order drill, increasing the psyker's leadership to a more respectable number.

When the armoury is concerned, arming psykers is very easy. They can't fight, they can't shoot and they can't survive. Most of the time their only talent lies in giving the command squad they're assigned to one more wound, extending the lives of important models like commissars and standard bearers. Arm them accordingly, with absolutely nothing. There's one exception for the adventurous and utterly optimistic. Arming a psyker with a force weapon and Honorifica Imperialis makes him "good" at killing big nasty things, like Hive Tyrants, Carnifexes, Wraithlords and the odd Chaos lord. To further increase his chances of killing the big nasty, you should assign him to an infantry platoon command squad with the close order drill and hardened fighters doctrines, and why not master craft his force weapon as well? Needless to say, this works out to one big and expensive one trick pony. And it's not even that good at its one trick. While the results are spectacular if all goes to plan, the likelihood of it happening and the cost involved make it a bad idea. Please don't bother.  

Priests are fit for only one role: countercharge. This specialisation in one task would imply that they're superior to any alternatives, but that's unfortunately not true.

One of their biggest disadvantages is their lack of armour. This means that the inclusion of a priest in any squad will turn that squad into a mixed armour unit. With other words, the priest must be assigned hits separately which will lead to his inevitable and untimely demise. This can be remedied by giving the priest carapace armour, but that protection still leaves a lot to be desired. You can then opt to upgrade everything else in the squad to wear carapace armour to cancel the mixed armour unit status, but that's ridiculously expensive.

The Righteous Fury rule isn't much of a disadvantage for any counterassault command squads, and the Fanatical rule is a considerable boon to any command squad that also contains a commissar with power fist and an officer with power weapon. You'll want to get the most out of the Fanatical rule by giving the priest's squad some good assault gear. This does make for an expensive squad however, so carefully consider if the addition of a priest will give you enough extra power in assault to justify the extra points spent. In any case, give the guardsmen in such a squad only laspistols and close combat weapons, both to keep the cost down and to make the most of the priest's Fanatical rule.

When arming a priest, two weapons stand out from the crowd. Namely power weapons and eviscerators. A power weapon is inexpensive, especially when compared to the eviscerator, but it lacks stopping power. The eviscerator has stopping power in spades, but is very expensive. Its bonus armour penetration against vehicles will rarely come into play, so you're essentially paying more for a power fist that can't be used with an additional close combat weapon. I still prefer it to a power weapon however. At least an eviscerator nearly guarantees you a kill per turn. The same certainly can't be said about power weapons. If you're going to spend points on a priest in the first place, you'd better be prepared to spend another bucketful to make him effective. Aside from carapace armour, there's nothing else worthwhile for him in the armoury. Some commanders like to equip their priests with Rosarii, but I consider this a waste of points. First of all, they're just overpriced pieces of carapace armour when you're fighting anything that doesn't ignore armour saves. If you are fighting something that ignores armour, chances are you've picked a bad target for your counterassault squad to deal with. Even then, what's presumably a big nasty will first have to chop its way through the four guardsmen that are in the majority before you have to allocate an armour save to the priest. Even a Hive Tyrant on the charge can only expect to kill 3-4 guardsmen in a turn. And did I mention the price you pay for a Rosarius?

I'll give a final verdict on each advisor now. Commissars are quite good at the two roles they can perform, and you'll often have good reason to include one or maybe two as long as the game size is roughly 1,500 points or more. Beyond the number of two, they get expensive rather fast, and I can't imagine any situations where you'd want more than one or two counterassault command squads. And the latter number will only rarely be desirable. Take the first commissar for leadership or counterassault, and possibly a second one for counter assault. That's all you'll ever need. In 1,000-point games, you might have a need for one commissar. Leadership 10 is a bit overkill for such a small game however, so if you do take a commissar it's probably best to equip him for assault.

Sanctioned psykers are very cheap and you can take more of them for that reason. Even in games as small as 500 points, there's often some space to squeeze one in and get that extra meat shield for a command squad. In games of 1,500 points and larger, taking the maximum of five is well within the realms of possibility. A good rule of thumb with psykers is to take one per command squad that needs a meat shield, or the maximum of five if you want a chance of getting a useful psychic power.

Priests are without a doubt the worst kind of advisor. Expensive, vulnerable and extremely limiting of the flexibility of the squad you assign them to, you'll hardly ever want to take more than one. And even one may be a bit much. My recommendation is to only ever take one for a fully tooled counterassault Command HQ, and then only if the size of game allows such an exorbitant use of points. A 1,500 points game may just be large enough, but a yet larger battle would be preferable.  

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