An Autarch is an Eldar of the Craftworlds who walks the Path of Command, a specialized path which studies all the different tactics a warhost of the Eldar Craftworld uses and then brings their different skills and abilities together into a single force that maximizes all their strengths and covers their individual weaknesses.
The Path of Command is the path that studies tactics, make plans and guides the Eldar in their war efforts. Those who walk it are referred to as Autarchs. Before becoming Autarchs, these Eldar would have studied in many of the different war temples of Khaine, mastering each path before choosing another. What this means is that Autarchs will have a range of varied skillsets and will be powerful warriors and great leaders.
On the board this allowed you to select all manner of wargear to kit out your Autarch and create your own unique leader for your host. No two Autarchs needed look alike and the modeling possibilities were endless. Then GW realized that they don't like conversions (or Eldar) and removed all those options. Thanks. For nothing. You can still sort of do this with the rules from the 8th edition index, but they probably won't ever update those. You can't really expect people to accept those rules in a few years and several editions ahead.
They also make terrible decisions.
It should be noted that Autarchs are the favorite 'prey' of the Delfdar Succubi. Seeing as how the majority of Autarchs are drawn and portrayed as female and that Dark Eldar have a knack for torturing and raping their captives in intense BDSM sessions. One can only imagine....by the Emperor....
Prince Yriel of Craftworld Iyanden is perhaps the most famous of the Eldar Autarchs and is a swashbuckling Eldar pirate....in sphess! He beat up a bunch of nids though so he has some more balls than most Eldar. Interestingly, Yriel has never walked the Path of Command, but achieved his post of Autarch due to walking the Path of the Mariner, implying that naval command also qualifies for promotion.
Autarchs have gone from one of the most flexible HQ's in the game, being able to pick and choose from an equipment list covering pretty much the entire Aspect Wargear list, to one of the least.
Since GW decided that equipment options could only include what was on the model and having retired most of the Autarch models, you can now pretty much only select from 3 preset options to go along with a 4++ forcefield and Plasma Grenades.
- Autarch with Swooping hawk wings, Mandiblaster, power sword and Fusion Pistol (Alright in a smaller game), but don't expect him to get much done in combat.
- Autarch Skyrunner on jetbike, the only one with even a semblance of choice, being able to switch out it's power sword for a Fusion Gun, or the Laser Lance that everyone actually chooses. The laser lance can be great when taken in a Siam Hann list with the relic to upgrade it to the Novalance.
- Autarch with Star Glaive... No shooting other than the 6" grenades. Doesn't even have an official model. Best guess is someone at GW forgot that Prince Yriel was a thing and assumed his model was an Autarch and gave it a datasheet, and then someone else also added in Yriel. Doesn't really matter though as there's no reason to take this version.
You can get some of the old flexibility back if you are able to use the Warhammmer Legends PDF which just expands the wargear options so you don't loose keywords or synergy, but it's usage is dependant on your opponent agreeing to it and won't be available for tournaments.
You Autarch's primary role is to allow <craftworld> units to re-roll hits of 1 within 6 inches and secondly using his Path of Command she can regain command points on a roll of 6. Also hilariously, he can take a reaper cannon and and mark of the Incomparable Hunter and become an efficient character sniper.
Dawn of War 2
An Autarch appears in Dawn of War 2 called Kayleth from Alaitoc. She is known to be a complete bitch and an absolute whiner. She is That Guy if he had a vagayjay. Kayleth is also known for her dynamic entry which involves dropping several plasma grenades to soften up the enemy position before striking down the remains of whoever was dumb enough to get the hell out of ground zero. She is also a glass cannon, dishing out plenty of pain but cannot take the equivalent amount of damage in turn. She might be tsundere with Ronahn, but Ronahn's big/twin/younger sister Taldeer might contend with the relationship. She can also kill or, more likely, be killed by, Kaptin Bluddflagg.