Morale Buffs - The Trade-Off Series
Astra Militarum Tactics

Morale Buffs – The Trade-Off Series

Today we look at Morale and the Astra Militarum...

Approximate Reading Time: 8 minutes

It’s been a while since I’ve written for this series, so let us start it back up by taking a look at Morale Buffs for the Astra Militarum. That is to say, how can we reduce or remove the negative effects of Morale for our Astra Militarum forces.

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So first up, let’s define what I’m trying to address here.

Morale Buffs reduce the number of models lost when a Morale Check is failed.

I say this because there are other things within the rules that could be considered Morale Buffs. For example; increasing Leadership to help mitigate the negative effects of an enemy Psychic Power.

But this seems rather specific and any benefit to Morale and not losing models probably spills into a Leadership buff too. It also makes writing this a lot simpler as I don’t need every Codex to hand to check what powers or abilities require a decent Leadership to be safe from.

With the housekeeping done, let’s continue.

Commissars & Morale

Commissars are always what springs to mind for me when it comes to the Guard and Morale. Especially after reading so many novels about the Guard. Their methods are hated, but it works – most of the time. It can also get the Commissar killed by his own troops.

We have Yarrick, Lord Commissars and Commissars to call on to aid us with our Morale problems during games.

These all work in the same way;

  • Aura of Discipline
  • Summary Execution

Aura of Discipline

This works slightly differently for the different Commissars because it’s based on their Leadership and the regular Commissar has a lower Leadership than the Lord Commissar or Yarrick.

But it essentially buffs the Leadership of nearby Astra Militarum units to the same as the Commissars.

That’s a big deal, as your infantry goes from Leadership 7 to Leadership 9. That’s two fewer models lost. Or up to Leadership 8 for a regular Commissar.

Summary Execution

This essentially gives you a re-roll on failed Morale checks. But you must slay a model in the process. So if you fail by rolling a six which would see you’re Squad of six wipes out. Why not slay one and try and roll lower to keep some guys on the battlefield?

Note that you can slay a model and get a re-roll here. So if you’re going to fail the check anyway, just don’t slay a model and take the failure.

Colour Sergeant Kell

He’s possibly overlooked a lot because he’s a beast to paint and Cadian only. But Kell lets you re-roll failed Morale for Cadians, without having to slay any models. What a nice guy?

I do not have Kell, so here is Creed!

I do not have Kell, so here is Creed!

Warlord Trait – Draconian Discipline

The only Warlord Trait that helps with Morale is this one. You can re-roll failed Morale for units within 6″ of your Warlord.


Mental Fortitude allows a straight pass for any unit it’s cast on. This is the most effective way of circumventing Morale.

It does come with two problems though.

Firstly because all Astra Militarum Psykers can only use one power, if you use Mental Fortitude, that Psykers isn’t using Smite it another power. This is OK though if you’re casting it with an Astropath for 26 points.

Secondly, you need to cast it on a unit before it’s actually been affected by Morale. If you have unit A and unit B and cast it on unit A. Your opponent may as well just focus on unit B, where you didn’t use Mental Fortitude. So if you’re going to use it effectively you have to be sure your opponent will be focusing on a unit to try and force a failed Morale check.

I think Mental Fortitude is best used on Conscripts for large units of Bullgryns/Ogryns. These units are likely to fail their Morale checks and be targeted by Leadership debuffs from your enemy.

Primaris Pskyer

Primaris Pskyer

Heirlooms of Conquest – Pietrov’s Mk 45

A Valhallan Heirloom of Conquest which means any Valhallan unit with 6″ of the bearer can never lose more than one model from a failed Morale check. This sure is neat.

Once I have my 60 Valhallans painted I can see this being a really fun Relic to take with a Valhallan Company Commander and three squads of 20 Conscripts. Those dudes are not running away!


We have three Stratagems to use that help us with reducing the number of fleeing models.

Fight to the Death

An Astra Militarum Stratagem that costs 1 CP and lets you take a Morale check on a D3 rather than a D6. This can really help you reduce the number of lost models – coupled with a Commissar this could be easily reduced to just one or no lost models for an Infantry Squad that’s lost 6 or 7 models.

Coupling up effects like this seems like the best way to mitigate the effects of failed Morale checks. In this situation you can make a smart decision on your movement phase;

Keep my Commissars in and among my infantry

And then when it comes to taking the Morale test out for Fight to the Death to further reduce your lost models. This can often be the difference between having no Troop models on an objective and having one.

This is even more useful when playing the new Chapter Approved Eternal War missions, such as Beachhead. In these games, you score points at the start of your turn. So you have to be able to survive the enemy’s turn before scoring. Having Morale buffs like this can really sway the tide of points your way.

Officio Prefectus Command Tank

A Leadership buffing Leman Russ? That sounds awesome! It is 2CP and gives Leadership 9 to all Astra Militarum units within 9″ of the Leman Russ. It doesn’t have to be a Tank Commander.

At 2CP it’s not cheap, but it does give you a massive area of Leadership 9. It’s from the Leman Russ and those things are big. The 9″ bubble will be pretty startling.

Also, note that this Stratagem is within 9″. Not wholly within 9″. This means that just one model needs to be within 9″ to get the Leadership 9 benefit. Hmmm, this needs to be tested.

Morale Pass

For 2CP any army can use this Stratagem. It’s a straight up Morale check pass. Expensive at 2CP and shouldn’t be relied on if you can help it.

Those 2CP can be used much more effectively elsewhere.

Regimental Doctrines & Morale

Valhalla has Grim Demeanour and Mordian have Parade Drill.

The former is more useful as it just straight up halves the number of models that flee from failed Morale checks. Rounding up. This coupled with some of the other methods mentioned here can be really handy. With Leadership increases and Fight to the Death, you could easily end up having only one or no models flee for Valhallans.

While not as effective, Parade Drill Is better than nothing. They get +1 Leadership if every model in the unit is touching the base of another model in the unit. I guess this means you can group them in twos? But this would still seriously affect your ability to screen in big sweeping lines.

Completed Valhallan Guardsman

Completed Valhallan Guardsman

And, thanks to Nuno in the comments, Brutal Strength from the Catachans gives them +1 Leadership when they’re within 6″ of a Catachan Officer.


Morale Summary

As you can see there are several avenues to pursue when it comes to reducing the effects of Morale on your Astra Militarum force. I don’t think its worth focusing an army solely on this as its only a small part of the game. But it definitely needs addressing when you’re running big units such as Conscripts, Consolidated Squads or Bullgryns with many models. Or when you’re facing an army that has Leadership debuffs.

If you need to address Morale in your force for the above reasons it is worth doing well and with two more methods. A Lord Commissar alone is possibly not going to save you from losing three Bullgryns from a squad of nine if the enemy is determined. But a Lord Commissar plus Fight to the Death will go most of the way to helping those big boys out.