“You’re a Guard Commissar. I’ve heard stories. Stories of ruthlessness. Brutality. Iron rule and unflinching punishment.”
“I’m all of these things,” said Gaunt. “When I have to be”
+++Major Landerson, Gereon Free Militia to Colonel Commissar Ibram Gaunt. Traitor General by Dan Abnett+++
A commissar was not a tactician. He was not a strategist. He could not fine-tune an assault or design the perfect defence. But when the Guard needed leadership, such things were irrelevant. Commissars led when the Guardsmen needed to be led from the front into the teeth of a foe a colonel and his officers could not face. When there was no room for tactics or skill or anything but sheer bloody-minded, fanatical bravery, the commissars took the lead.
+++The Statue Garden, Chapter 18 of the Grey Knights by Ben Counter+++
Exceptional recruits that excel in Stormtrooper training from the Schola Progenium are seconded to the Commissariat to be trained as commissars. Remaining outside the standard command structure of the Imperial Guard, Commissars have the right and authority to summarily execute anyone without trial if they are deemed to be found wanting. In Dawn of War, Imperial Guard Commissars are the backbone of your Guardsmen squads, providing courage and fearsome leadership when it is found wanting.
Commissars cost 80 Resources and 40 Power and are available in two forms – as part of the Command Squad and as an individual leader. Each Commissar has 375 hitpoints and is equipped with a powersword and laspistol. Each of them packs Commander class armour, rendering them immune to most conventional forms of firepower except for Plasma weaponry and Heavy Bolters. In combat, they can perform a disruption attack with their Power Swords to scatter enemy units.
Available once an Infantry Command is built, Commissars are available in two forms – as an addition to an Imperial Guard Command Squad or as an individual offer from the Command Centre.
An individual Commissar can be attached to a Guardsman, Ogryn or Kasrkin squad as a leader. As part of a squad, the Commissar confers increased morale and a minor self healing ability to the squad. Technically speaking, he adds 2.5 hit points per second to a squad’s healing rate, allowing them to heal faster. For a standard Imperial Guardsman squad, this means he boosts the regeneration rate up to 3 hit points per second. In addition, he adds 200 Morale Points to the squad he joins but does not affect morale regeneration rates. At Tier 2, he can execute a member of the squad to give a temporary bonus of resetting morale to maximum and doubling the rate of fire to all Guardsmen, Kasrkin and Ogryn within a small radius from the Commisar. This becomes a viable strategy by constantly boosting the fire rates of your Guardsmen for a marginal cost of 20 Resources to replace the executed Guardsman. One currently used strategy is to pack a unit of Guardsmen with a Commisar with the squad carrying Plasma Rifles in conjunction with a Psyker to deal with vehicles though this method is only to be advocated if you have superior numbers on your side.
In Tier 0, Imperial Commissars are best used individually to tie up a squad on their own in conjunction with a Guardsman unit providing fire support. Once the Commissar gets injured or halfway down his healthbar, he should rejoin a Guardsmen squad to avoid enemy units focusing fire on him. In packed melees with close combat capable troops, a Commisar should charge in with a squad in Melee mode such as against the Orks and against Chaos Raptor units. Alone – he will be massacred in melee. As the enemy begin packing more anti armour and anti elite troop weaponry, Commissars should change from being a close combat and assault unit to a leadership role with their Execute ability.
In the Command Squad, a Commissar represents a quickly reinforced unit with only slightly inferior stats to a Priest, doing approximately 85% of a Priest’s maximum melee damage while still retaining their ranged lethality with their laspistol. Their primary advantage is that they only take 25 seconds to be added to the Command Squad, representing quick reinforcements should your Command Squad take casualties in combat. Their ranged damage is also the best after the General and some tacticians advocate a Command Squad consisting of 3 Commissars, a Priest and a General set at the Ranged Stance to tear down listening posts and provide ranged fire support in the middle and late tiers of the game.