Many tournament organisers strive to present a perfectly balanced battlefield for a mission, usually creating mirrored sides with the same building copied so that each player has the same terrain at the same distance as the opponent. The idea of balanced battlefields is to make a mission that does not favour either side in any way and allows players to concentrate on which makes better choices. However, the rules for setting up matched play missions, both in the core rule book and the Grand Tournament 2020 Mission Pack mention never mention balanced boards and the example battlefields vary from almost balanced to decidedly unbalanced.

The rules for setting up a battle include a rule that indicates a perfectly balanced battlefield is not the intention of the game designers. Players roll off to determine who is the defender and who is the attacker, with the defender choosing which is their deployment zone. This is an important consideration that helps balance the advantage the attacker gains from reactively placing units onto the table after the defender deploys a unit. In a perfectly balanced layout, the choice of deployment zone is meaningless, and yet the attacker has the deployment advantage. 

Tournament organizers should allow a measure of imbalance in the tables. In any case, the terrain available should be close to the same amount of volume. A good rule of thumb is to shoes enough terrain to fit half the battlefield and to divide it somewhat evenly across the board as it is laid down. Be careful not to give an overt advantage in one area, such as a terrific sniper point close to one player’s deployment zone but nothing to aid snipers on the other end of the board. Stealing an idea from Star Wars Legions tournaments, organizers might consider placing the terrain next to the table and have each player set down one piece in turn until they are all on the table, with the defender placing first. 

A Deadly River Runs Through It is a Strike Force mission. One side is the attacking force who must rush into the opponent’s zone while the defender tries to keep them out. This mission is based on a mission from the Red Waagh! campaign from the seventh edition. The map for this mission is on Tabletop Simulator at

The Battlefield  

The battlefield is split by the Deadly River with a bridge over it. On the attack side is a barricade at the entrance to the bridge. A pair of ruin is in the defender’s forward deployment zone, and one in the rear. A defence line marks the side of the defender’s forward deployment zone facing the defender. This map shows a typical configuration. 



Determine which player is the attacker and which is the defender. 

The attacking player splits their force into two groups, with as close to half the total number of units in each group as possible.  The attacking player deploys all units in the group containing his Warlord in the attacking deployment zone. All other units are placed in Reserve.

After the attacking player has deployed their units the defending player splits their force into two groups, with as close to half the total number of units in each group as possible. One group contains the Warlord. The Attacking player places all units in the group containing his Warlord in the deployment zone on their edge and then all units in the other group are placed in the forward deployment zone behind the defences.



The attacking player may bring reserves in starting on turn one. The attacking player rolls a D6 for each unit they are bringing in from reserve. On turn one the unit enters play on a roll of 4+. No roll is needed on the second turn or later. Units may be placed within 6” of any edge except the defending player’s edge, and not along the short edge bordering the defending Player’s deployment until turn three or later, and they must be at least 9” from an enemy unit.  

Air Strike

The attacker rolls a D6 for each enemy unit. On a “6” that unit suffers D6 mortal wounds. For characters roll two D6’s and use the lowest result to determine a hit. Before the dice are rolled the defending player may choose to have the unit dig in. That unit only suffers D3 mortal wound but that unit may not take any actions in the first round of the mission. 

Deadly River

The Deadly River is Difficult Ground. Any models that enter, leave or move within the river must roll a D6. If the roll is equal to or greater than the Toughness of the model that model suffers one mortal wound. An unmodified “6” inflicts a mortal wound in addition to any damage the unit might take from this roll. 

Game Length

This mission is 5 rounds long.


At the end of the game each player scores the following:

  • 1 Victory Point for each of their units other than aircraft that are in the defending player’s table half. 
  • At the end of the mission, each player adds up the wound value of the units destroyed during the mission. Divide this by 10 and round down; this is the number of points the opponent receives for kills. 

 Total up all the victory points for each side and the player with the most points is the victor.  


Variety is the spice of life, even in a grimdark universe where there is ONLY WAR. Serve these snacks to add spicey flavour to your games. These are appropriate for open, narrative, and pick-up casual matched play.

1500 Point Games

Even with the new points limits laid out in the core rules as 500/1000/2000/3000 points the 1500 point limit was (and is) popular on the tabletop. In a 1500 point game each side gains 9 command points per side and is played on a strike force sized battlefield (60” x 44”). For even more 1500-ness players could choose to use a board size between incursion and strike force size of 50” x 35” (you may need to block off areas of the map to achieve this size). 

Random Points Limits

The points imitations for games in the core book do not vary much and lead to “the usual suspects” on the table. Varying the point limit leads to players making choices they may not otherwise make. Use this for pickup games or as an integral part of a Crusade campaign where players choose their combatants from their order of battle each mission. 









































































More Pistol Shootyness

Pistols tend to be used less as a ranged weapon and more as an additional close combat weapon since they cannot fire if the unit advanced. A simple change is to allow pistols to shoot with a -1 hit modifier after advancing. While similar to how assault weapons work, any abilities or modifiers that apply to assault weapons do not apply to pistol attacks while advancing. 



40k Variant: Alternating Phases

Since the tail end of eighth and into ninth edition Warhammer 40,000 I have had a chance to play a lot of the games virtually with a friend across the Atlantic ocean. We find the ninth edition ruleset to be a vast improvement. However, we were disappointed that the way turns are structured was unchanged. The idea that one side does all their phases and then the other side is an example of 40k stuck in the past, keeping the basic structure in the mould of the 1987 original at a time when this was the wargame standard. In that time this method of taking turns has been jettisoned by most other major miniature wargames. Even before ninth was announced we had changed our game to another way of handling a turn with alternating phases and it works well, bringing a new level of tactical depth to the game and minimizing downtime for the players.

Detailed below is the simple changes to add alternating phases to a game. While may matched game players will be reluctant to make changes to the game, these changes should be considered by casual and narrative players.

Alternating Phases

The alternating phase variant has one player performing a phase and then the other instead of performing all phases at once followed by the other player. To make this work there are a few alterations to the ninth edition rules. 


The phases are changed when using alternating phases. They are:

  1. Initiative (simultaneous)

  2. Command

  3. Movement

  4. Deep Strike

  5. Psychic

  6. Shooting

  7. Assault

  8. Morale (simultaneous)

The command, movement, psychic, and shooting phases work as in the core rules. The initiative phase comes before any “at the start of the turn” rules and determines which player performs each phase first in the turn. The Command Re-roll stratagem may be used on the priority roll. 

In the deep strike phase, each player brings in units from reserves instead of “at the end of the movement phase.” This avoids a problem where the player with initiative might deep strike and the opponent then moves out of range making deep strikes much less effective for the player with initiative.

The charge and fight phases are combined into the assault phase. The active player charges and fights, with the enemy player able to make heroic interventions after the active player finishes their charges. 

The morale phase is performed by both sides at the same time instead of one player and then the other. 


Each phase is separate from each other, so a player may use the same stratagem in both them and their opponent’s phases with the same name. For example, player A may use a command reroll in their shooting phase and the opponent’s shooting phase. 


When two or more rules are to be resolved at the same time the player who is performing the phase chooses what order the rules are resolved in. Otherwise use the dice to resolve the order as in the core rules. 


Throughout many games, the alternating phase rules have been nothing but positive. The outcomes of the games are the same as in the standard rules, but the advantages of less downtime for players and new tactical opportunities with the initiative roll enhance the game. 

Note: IMO. YMMV.