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.