Unit Card:


Set - Rarity - Number

Base Set - Uncommon - 3/48
39-45 - Uncommon - 17/60


The Commissar originally had a very different special ability than the revised card.

Bravery Enforcement - At the beginning of your assault phase, you can destroy a friendly Soldier adjacent to this unit. If you do, other friendly Soldiers adjacent to this unit get +1 on each attack die this phase.

This ability was ludicrously good. By destroying two Mosin Nagants adjacent to two Commissars you could turn several PM-37 mortars into SS-Panzergrenadier killing machines. Alternatively, you could simply rush the objective with a horde of soldiers and destroy them when they became disrupted.

Naturally, the card was revised.

Bravery Enforcement - Friendly disrupted Soldiers adjacent to this unit don't suffer the -1 penalty to each attack die.

While the revised version is more historically accurate and palatable for Russian players, it's also much less abuseable. It's still not a terrible ability, though.

The Commissar suffers in comparison to other commanders by virtue of his lack of effective attacks. Even the terrible Chinese commander and Bold Captain are better in combat than the Commissar.

There is of course one very good reason to play the Commissar: Command Dependent! With the Degtyarev DP-27, Mosin Nagant and Soviet Conscript all carrying the dreaded Command Dependent ability, you need to play either the Commissar or the much more expensive Cossack Captain if you want to move standard infantry up to the objective.

In practice I prefer the Cossack Captain's +2 initiative for tank heavy battles. But the Commissar is usually a better choice for escorting infantry.

Historical Background:

Commissar was not a military rank or position in the Red Army, but rather a political one. Commissars held military rank equaling that of the unit commander to whom they were attached. No decision could be made without the joint approval of both the military commander and the commissar.

The reason for this was likely to keep the Red Army from developing into a threat to rise up against Stalin. As the Tsarist military had been instrumental in overthrowing Nicholas II, Stalin could hardly be unaware that the Red Army could easily oust him if it decided to launch a coup collaboratively. This is probably why so many military officers were purged.

Although it is commonly believed that Stalin learned that political control over the military and the purging of officers was a mistake after the Winter War, in fact there was a whole new wave of purges in the military in 1941 right before the German invasion and then immediately after.

This could not have purely been an attempt to scapegoat generals for leading failures in campaigns in Finland and against the invading Germans. Many successful generals, such as Grigori Shtern, who presided over the Soviet victory against Japan in the 1939 border war with that country, were also tortured and executed.

The Commissars were largely disbanded in 1942, as their deficiencies in combat were now obvious to Stalin and the Red Army was no longer a danger to overthrow him.

Bravery Enforcement
The western view that soldiers were routinely executed by political operatives for cowardice is not entirely accurate.

From 1 August till 15 October 1942, the guard squads held 140.755 soldiers that run from the front line. Out of this number :
arrested - 3.980,
executed - 1.189,
sent to the penal battalions - 2.776,
sent to penal squads - 185,
sent to their units or assembly places - 131.094

The vast majority of "traitors" were sent back to their units, to prison, or to the penal battalions (which were used as cannon fodder.) Less than one percent were executed.

The Red Army still killed way more men for desertion than other nations, though. The United States Army executed a single soldier for desertion during the war, while the Red Army executed 158,000 deserters.
(courtesy of Johnny_Thunders)

Plastic Figure Notes:

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