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Are your games of Warhammer 40k stale?

Back in the days of yore (well September 1987) Rick Priestley's modified tome of rules know as Rogue Trader: Warhammer 40000 was released, changing the entire future of the company called Games Workshop for many years to come.

What a lot of people don't know about the earliest game of Warhammer 40k is that you were supposed to have 3 players. Player A, Player B and.......a Games Master. This was because you were supposed to bring an element of role playing to your tabletop games.

Now the current game of Warhammer 40k has definitely lost a lot of its roleplaying edge. Even Crusade which supposedly replaced Narrative games is just an ongoing 'Necromunda' style advancement campaign with Matched play missions disguised as anything but.

The smaller rule set could also be one of the reasons for the lack of flavour found in the game itself. Older rules could have a good page describing movement and what happens when a model takes a wounding hit, which with 8th edition streamlining the rules into simply paragraphs leaves little room for a great explanation.

I'm the one at my local club that tends to play against the newer players and many a time I often hear this sentence;

But a Space Marine would never Run off

This is the response you sometimes get from a failed Moral check, or even;

But I can see, its two flat points of a building and my model can see him so why cant I shoot??

When I try to explain the Obscuring rule on terrain.

The art of 'Role Play' is certainly missing and with more and more folks not skilled in the ways of story telling your imagination might not be able to tell you what that dice roll could really mean.

So in the rest of this article i'm going to list some ways of explaining rules that will get people back into the 'role playing aspect' of tabletop gaming.

The Game Overall

What you do need to remember first and foremost is that you are playing a representation of a part of a battle. The idea being that 40k represents about 5-20 minutes of actual conflict and that you, with your god like perception, is looking at either a form of retelling or a holo-map of the on-going conflict. Anything can happen to the warriors on the field that's not exactly translated exactly, or is combined into a single dice roll for speed of playing a game.


A unit moves a set amount of inches as dictated to by the M characteristic on its datasheet. This represents a warriors ability to move cautiously while under fire, they don't have your god like knowledge of their surroundings and are moving with enough haste to make it to that next block of cover or to get within effective range of their weapons. Some will move faster, either due to xenos like biology or because they have no regard for their own well being.


Advancing is when warriors sling weapons on their backs and dash forwards, being because of orders or because they need to close with the enemy fast. A bad advance roll could be represented by this:

  • The sergeant/squad leader suddenly noticing something out of the corner of his eye and pulls the squad up before its too late.

  • Warriors have been spooked by sounds of gunfire and the buildings around them are distorting the direction of where it came from.

  • When the squad broke from cover a stray mortar shell impacted in their midst, no one was hurt but the squad has been knocked flat by the blast.

  • A nearby enemy psyker users his power to slow time around the squad, making seems like they are hardly moving at all.

Moving through Walls, or Breachable

Some folks do have a hard time with this one. They cant get around that the building might not actually have a solid wall, the terrain model does but that doesn't mean a hole couldn't be breached.

  • A unit of fire dragons run towards the building, the exarch opens fire with his fusion gun and creates a hole before his squad gets there so they can run straight through.

  • The guardsman places a krak grenade on the well and sets a short timer "breach" he yells to his squad and part of the wall completely collapses.

  • The Terminator runs towards the wall and just smashes through it becuase......well its a Terminator


Falling Back

Most people I show rules to have the hardest time understanding this one "why wouldn't my unit just hit them". Now there is a strat for that (I'll be honest its one I have NEVER used) but falling back could be represented by:

  • Warriors that were killed in the last combat round sacrificing themselves so the others could get away.

  • The Squad deploys a sonic disruption device that temporally disorientates the foe and allows them to break free.

  • A nearby tank fires above the heads of the combatants and spooks the attackers, allowing your unit to break off.

Model destroyed and removed from play

I always hated the way this reads. Previously a model was removed as a 'casualty' which meant various things could have happened to the model like these below:

  • A Space marine takes a burst of rounds to his helmet, it cracks but doesn't break, but even the force of such a hit has knocked the marine out cold and he wont be out of it anytime soon. (5-20mins remember)

  • The warrior is hit and is seriously wounded, shot through the stomach or was winged in the arm, he isn't dead but wont be taking part in the remainder of the battle.

  • The enemy pysker unleashes a bolt of energy that fries the tanks electrical systems, it will take days to repair and wont be seeing action anytime soon.


Close combat is one of those that is a vague representation of what's actually going on. Weapons discharged at point blank range, units flowing around each other, climbing up and over vehicles etc. The table top doesn't do the chaos of close combat proper justice but is a great way of showing it on a game board.

The same reasonings from previous can be applied here, models taken out could also be knocked out or simply injured rather then completely destroyed. A vehicles crew might have been cooked by a point blank flamer through the vision slits, but is otherwise still intact. Possibilities again are endless.



Now this is my fav section to use your imagination with. The morale phase is a great one to show various things that can happen in a conflict. Thing in all those war films you have watched and all those little other type of interactions you see on screen. This is where, in my head at least, that can be represented.

For me a morale test shows a squad slowly breaking down under the constant stream of bullets and chainswords. Don't get me wrong some of that squad might flee, but sometimes other things might crop up that could mean a model is no longer capable of taking part in the battle.

  • (If all your squad flees): The sergeant receives orders to pull out, he doesn't understand them but he is a good solider and does what high command orders -or- Has the enemy manipulated the situation and have broken into the vox lines or implanted thoughts and ideas via psychic manipulation.

  • (You fail a morale and 1 additional member leaves, so 2 flee) Several of your squad members are down and troopers Nathan and Kuri are badly hurt, the squad leader orders trooper Adam to tend to the wounded and orders trooper Corner to run back to the lines and let command know the situation as communications are down.

Explanations like those above can help someone that's not familiar with the game but has read up on the lore understand a little better about what could possibly be happening on the battlefield and would give reason why warriors such as marines would 'flee' the battle.

Im hoping this might give you some context of where im coming from, and yes this is a little bit of a ramble about something that could potentially bring more players into the game by allowing some form of emersion to take place again.


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