This is any type of character in games whose presence on the battlefield offers "moral support" (may or may not be related to Morale Mechanic) to his comrades, enabling them to fight stronger, faster, better than they normally do on their own.
Unlike other enemy support units, the Commander does not actively assist his comrades, like by casting Status Buffs or healing spells — his very presence on the battlefield is a status buff in and of itself; or phrased another way, the Commander is essentially a Walking Field Power Effect. If he can heal or buff, that'd be a bonus. They may also occasionally be Enemy Summoners.
In Strategy Games, these benefits will go above and beyond issuing normal orders to selected groups of units.
The Mook Commander by himself may or may not be distinguishable from his underlings — some Commanders are already Elite Mooks to begin with, while others are merely ordinary Mooks with special HUD designations. Either way, the Commander should be considered a primary target on the battlefield, because destroying him first will dispel whatever positive effect he bestows on his allies. However, the ability to effectively attack the Commander in the first place varies by game, because depending on the number of subordinates in his group and exactly what benefits he provides to them, a single Commander can potentially upgrade a flock of Goddamned Bats into a pack of ravenous Demonic Spiders.
A Sub-Trope of the Mook Lieutenant, applied as a gameplay mechanic. Compare and contrast the Hero Unit, which is less about their status-buffing effects and more about their plot importance and/or non-expendability. Compare also Mook Medic for another type of supporting Mook.
While obviously not magical in real life, an inspiring commander in a battle situation can motivate his troops to fight harder and be more resilient in the face of setbacks. Taking such a commander out can shake the troops confidence, but also act as a Berserk Button causing them to do their very best to destroy the enemy who attacked their leader.
For cases where the morale benefit is bestowed from a stationary source, see Field Power Effect. Compare The Minion Master, a Player Character who may or may not have this effect towards his controlled mooks.
Video Game Examples
- Deadpool: There are two kinds of these: Enemies who increase every enemy's defense (and apparently also give them regeneration) and enemies who increase every enemy's damage. Either way, the buffs disappear as soon as the commander is killed.
- Devil May Cry 4: The Alto Angelos are definitely this to Bianco Angelos. Being led by an Alto significantly improves their coordination and increases their agressiveness; any good strategy guide will recommend to take the Alto down first in those fights.
- Drakengard: In the first game, enemies with a yellow dot next to their Life Meter are designated squad commanders (some of which may be Elite Mooks). The more commanders that are present in a given fight, the more aggressively they (and other Mooks) attack.
- Mercenaries: The various enemy factions have officers, who are stronger than rank-and-file troops and can see through the player's disguise if they have one.
- X-Men Legends: There are Giant Mook versions of many an enemy. They'll often have status buffs that they spread to all enemies (even ones that aren't of the same type), One whose buff is "increased damage" and can spread it to others can turn a weak pack of grunts into a Total Party Kill-dealing nightmare. Also, sometimes they can only be damaged once all their minions are gone... or the reverse, making all their minions invincible while they live. If you have Rogue on your team, and you use Power Theft on the leader or one of the minions, you not only gain the status buff, but also have it spread to teammates near you in the same way. (Unfortunately, that doesn't include the "they/you can't take damage while you/even one of them lives" trick.)
- Zone Of The Enders 2: Some enemies have a glowing "COMMANDER" designation, which allows them to activate a party formation with nearby units, giving the other units a noticeable boost in attack and defense power (and overall aggressiveness).
- The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom: Boss Bokoblins lead groups of Bokoblins that they can direct form up in various ways. Once they sight Link, they command their followers into a shield wall so that the Boss is (mostly) protected from frontal attacks like Flurry Rushes. If Link is up close, they will order their Bokoblins to do a group overhead-swinging attack so that Link can't easily dodge them all at once. If Link is far away, they will order their Bokoblins to continuously throw small rocks at Link to tack on bits of damage.
- Dynasty Warriors: Because of how the morale system works, any officer, even generic ones, counts as this. Their presence on the field can encourage mooks to be more aggressive or exhibit better defensive stats (ie., able to take more than one hit from your player character before going down), but they don't actually cast anything. Having them on the field is enough, and inversely, defeating them will debuff their allies because they lost morale upon seeing one of their officers defeated.
- Hyrule Warriors has rally captains appear in certain missions in Adventure Mode. These captains instantly boost the morale of every enemy on the field, including giant bosses. Defeating them instantly reverts the morale back to normal, which is a necessity when going up against the aforementioned giant bosses.
- Doom Eternal's Archvile can magnify the speed and damage of all nearby demons, akin to the effect of a Buff Totem, and can also summon new demons to attack the player. However, they differ from most examples of this trope in that they can hold their own in combat.
- Captain Winters from PAYDAY 2 has three effects while he is deployed on the battlefield: increasing the spawn rate of the SWAT Team, providing said SWAT Team with damage resistance, and preventing the assault wave from ending until he is defeated.
- In TRON 2.0, after reaching a certain score threshold dark blue Commander units start appearing on the board, and all other opponents move and attack faster until the Commander is defeated.
- Elsword: The Glitter Commander can command nearby Glitter Troops into making a strong and nigh impenetrable formation: the Protectors on the front blocking advances and frontal attacks with their shields, the Spearmen sticking their spears to the air, anticipating aerial attacks, and the Snipers doing long-range attacks from behind the formation. Occasionally the Pounders may also help with their hammers to create mini quakes that throw their enemies off balance.
- Deadly Rooms of Death The brain is an entirely immobile enemy that does not attack, or anything else. However, its very presence in the room changes the pathfinding for all other enemies making them move intelligently instead of in a straight line.
- In Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars, Nod's basic Infantry squads can be upgraded to have a "Confessor" in the squad who will improve the combat power of not only the squad's members, but all nearby units. The combat buff ability was reused for the Black Hand faction in the Kane's Wrath Expansion Pack in the form of "Confessor Cabals" (entire squads of Confessors), the Purifier (a Mech with flamethrowers on it) and the Voice of Kane (a statue of Nod's leader).
- Warzone 2100 allows the player to develop and utilize a "Command Turret" on the battlefield — while its only effect as a weapon is Scratch Damage, it offers a few improvements over manual unit grouping, such as an accuracy boost for all attached units and the ability to call in covering fire from stationary artillery batteries back at base.
- Dawn of War: the Tau faction features the Ethereal Commander, which provides a morale bonus for all Tau units. The Imperial Guard allows squads to purchase Commissars that provide a similar bonus.
- In the second game, the tyranid hive lord is a giant killing machine but boosting nearby tyranids is its real strength. Once it learns to summon Elite Mooks... let's say the tyranid campaign is probably the easiest of the six.
- Having a sergeant (or assimilated unit) in a squad gives a bonus to morale (Space Marine and Imperial Guard Sergeants, Ork Nobs, Eldar Archons) or health (Chaos Aspiring Champions). In Winter Assault, a mission requires you to brainwash Guardsman squads, which can't be done if there's a Sergeant in it. Orks also get a morale bonus by attaching a Big Mek (who can be upgraded to have a damage reducing aura) or Warboss, while Space Marine Force Commanders and Chaos Lords get upgrades that passively increase the damage of friendly units around them.
- The role of Commissars in the Imperial Guard is to ensure morale, accuracy, and general enthusiasm by blowing out the brains of panicking soldiers.
- Warcraft III:
- The Kodo Beast unit has a passive ability called "War Drums", which is essentially an aura that makes surrounding orc units deal more damege to their opponents. The ability stays on even if the drummer is currently throwing his axes at people instead of using them to beat the drums.
- Many Hero Units have some kind of passive ability that works like this. The Tauren Chieftain's Endurance Aura increases movement and attack speed, the Paladin's Devotion Aura increases armor, etc.
- Crusader Kings II: The traits of your army's commanders positively or negatively influence the effectiveness of any flank they're placed in command of. For example, a commander with Holy Warrior will give your soldiers a 30 percent boost against religious enemies, while a commander with Craven gives penalties to army morale. Having commanders of certain cultures also unlocks special tactics, e.g. Embolon Charge Formation if Greek, or Berserker Charge if Norse.
- Rise of Nations has the General, an unarmed unit which provides nearby military units with bonuses to armor, as well as possessing a number of useful tactical powers. The Thrones and Patriots Expansion Pack adds the Patriot, a unique version of the General who gains additional powers based on your government type and is immune to sniping and bribing.
- Hurlock Alphas in Dragon Age: Origins provide some nasty buffs for their lesser Darkspawn subordinates.
- The Toad Lady from Final Fantasy IV. She appears with a six toads that cast the Toad spell at her command...only at her command. And since they have no other abilities, taking her down renders them completely harmless.
- The General and Captain enemies have the exact same role relative to the Baron Soldiers and Baron Marines (who only attack when ordered) except that they will run away if their underlings are defeated.
- In Breath of Fire IV, the platypus-like Wakwak enemies would sometimes space out and do nothing, but another type of Wakwak could command the grunts to attack you, with the "Command" skill. Even with it, Wakwaks are basically still Goombas. The skill itself could also be used to counter "confused" status.
- The first Mass Effect game has the geth Prime; having them around makes the rest of the geth fire faster and hit harder and more accurately. The story reason for this is that geth have communal intelligence, and the larger platforms have more programs in them then the smaller ones, making them all smarter and more dangerous.
- Middle-earth: Shadow of War brings us these as one of the classes Uruk Captains can have. The Commanders always have a band of soldiers with them, can summon banners that give their soldiers an attack that can't be blocked and gives them some of his own attributes when the banner is up. It's a small subversion when the Commander is killed since instead of getting weaker and running away, the soldiers go enraged and gain the unblockable attack and rush Talion in an attempt to avenge the Captain. Luckily, it lasts just a short while.
- The Civilization games feature Great Generals, who can't fight on their own but acts as a support unit that gives a powerful buff to allies. In IV, they can be attached to a unit to give them an XP bonus and special promotions. In V and VI, they give a combat bonus to all nearby land units within 2 tiles. V and VI also introduces a naval version in the Great Admiral.
- Guerilla Heralds are able to buff all Guerilla-type enemies by being on the battlefield, giving all enemies a straight stat buff as well as unique buffs for each enemy variant. When they are killed, the buff is removed from all enemies. Unusually, the buff also applies to themselves, meaning they have an extra bit of defense to help mitigate any offense from a player looking to quickly kill them whenever they appear on the field.
- The Arc Villain Final Boss for the Guerillas' set of main story maps, Patriot, is effectively a King Mook version when it comes to this ability with far tankier defense and greater offense to supplement the buffs given to himself as he marches towards the objective, thus forcing players to contend with souped-up versions of mooks as long as he is on the map.
- Sarkaz Sentinels are a twist on this trope as they buff all enemy stats and trigger alertness on the map only after being attacked by someone, thus giving the player incentive to either kill them first before any other enemy appears or to kill them last after killing all enemies applicable for its buff.
- Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time
- Lesser example with the Pianist Zombies in the Wild West levels; with their piano they can command other zombies to dance and switch the lanes they're walking on, potentially screwing with your strategy. Kill them and the zombies will stop moving around.
- Later, the game introduces Zombie Kings for the Dark Ages levels. When they're present, they can turn Peasant Zombies into durable Knight Zombies. The kings themselves don't fight; when there are no other zombies aside from themselves, they'll instantly die.
- Battle for Wesnoth units with the leadership ability make adjacent lower-level allies deal more damage.
- This is how the "CO Zone" mechanic works in Advance Wars: Days Of Ruin. It's only excepted by Tabitha, who needs to rack up some damage before she can expand her Zone beyond the lone unit she's in.
- Angels have this effect in the Heroes of Might and Magic series. If a player has angels or archangels on the field, all of the other units controlled by that player get an automatic boost to their morale stat, which gives them a chance to attack twice in one turn.
- XCOM 2 features enemy Mook Commanders in the form of the ADVENT Officers, who are sometimes also called ADVENT Captains. They have thicker armor, better marksmanship, and overall superior stats to their ADVENT Trooper brethren; however, their danger lies in their ability to mark specific XCOM soldiers, which makes every single ADVENT Trooper nearby target that soldier. They can be lethal early-game, when XCOM soldiers can't survive more than one or two hits from an ADVENT magnetic rifle. The game also promotes Sectoids, The Goomba of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, to something like this role: They're noticeably tougher than Advent Troopers and even Officers, who are explicitly disposable cannon fodder in-universe and out, and have a variety of psionic support powers that they use to engage from relatively safe distances.
- Super Robot Wars has several powers that allow a unit to enhance its comrades' abilities:
- The Commander skill, usually seen on battleship captains and other leaders, enhances the accuracy and evasion of all friendly units within a certain radius, with the effect increasing with skill level increases and proximity to the commander.
- Particularly skilled or famous commanders like Bright Noa, Okita Juzo, or Lelouch Lamperouge may have unique skills or Ace Bonuses that make Commander more powerful or grant other bonuses to nearby allies.
- Enemy units may also have the Chain of Command ability, which increases accuracy for all enemies based on how many are on the field.
- Fire Emblem:
- In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, Fire Emblem: Thracia 776, and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, bosses are more pronounced than other games due to the implementation of authority stars. Depending on the number of stars, bosses will give extra hit and avoid to their troops and the enemy will always have more authority stars than yours. While in Genealogy, the bosses can only provide the buff within 3 range, the others provide the buff just by existing, thus killing them quickly will shift the equilibrium to your favor.
- One of the most pivotal cases of this is Thracia 776's Saias, generally regarded in-universe as one of the best tacticians in the world. For comparison: the most stars any other player unit can have is two, for a 6% boost. Your average lategame boss will have three, for a 9% boost. Particularly plot-relevant types, like Veld, Raydrick, and Reinhardt, will have four or five. Saias, when fought as an enemy, boasts ten, which provides a 30% boost to the hit and dodge rates of every single enemy. Mercifully, he only occurs as a boss in two maps, and in both of them, he is either only there for a few turns, or he can be forced to leave. Sadly, upon his Heel–Face Turn, he goes down to three stars if recruited: still considerable, and more than any other player unit, but not quite the game-changer he was when menacing you. Have fun with Chapter 22, where Saias (10 Stars), Reinhardt (5 Stars) and Coen (4 Stars) all show up at once, giving every Mook +57 Hit and Avoid.
- Warfare 1917 and Warfare 1944. An Officer provides a damage bonus to any friendly troops near them and increases the overall morale of his side's troops.
Non-Video Game Examples
- Many older wargames had leaders as separate units; when stacked with a troop unit they could improve its morale or grant other abilities; alternately, some systems used a "command radius" giving bonuses to any unit within a certain distance of the leader. In some cases the presence of a leader was necessary for the troop unit to be able to move or attack, so leaders had to move around the board "picking up" units.
- In Warhammer 40,000, more powerful Tyranids can control and direct the less intelligent weaker ones, making them more dangerous. Conversely, killing the big ones makes the swarms confused until another synapse creature comes into range.
- As of the 8th Edition of the game most characters now have 'aura' abilities, allowing them to buff friendly troops in some way, from rerolling hit dice to increasing the stats of nearby units just by standing there. Some of these can very powerful, making the character a prime target.
- Alpharius is one of the weakest Primarchs in direct combat, but one of the best force multipliers thanks to this, buffing his army and granting a number of maluses on the enemy just for being fielded.
- Magic: The Gathering has two major types.
- There is a general type of creature informally referred to by both creators and players as a "Lord". Typically, the name applies to a creature that grants a bonus to the power and toughness (attack and defense) of all creatures of its own race or class (but not to itself), as well as granting an additional ability that varies from Lord to Lord. For instance, Knight Exemplar grants a P/T boost to all other Knights, and also makes them indestructible. Variations exist; for instance, Lord of the Unreal is a human, but functions as an Illusion Lord, as he gives a P/T boost to Illusions and also makes them immune to their opponents' spells and abilities.
- The Slivers could be considered an entire species of Lords/Mook Commanders that recursively enhance each other; with incredibly rare exceptions, every Sliver grants bonuses to all other Slivers.
- Traveller 2300 (AKA 2300 AD). Most of the alien Kafers have a low IQ and are relatively docile. In order to engage in combat they must be physically abused, which stimulates them into increased intelligence and combat ability. This abuse is provided by the minority of Kafers who are permanently intelligent.
- Erfworld: Because its fantasy setting is based on Strategy Games, commander units have a Leadership special that bolsters nearby allies.