Ruleshammer 40k: Small Q&A but lots of Updates!

Ruleshammer articles updated! Several months of Ruleshammer Q&A have now been added to the faction articles and Compendium. Maybe next year I might actually find time to write the missing ones too! Links to the updated articles below.

Q&A Compendium
Chaos: Death Guard 
Imperium: Adeptus MechanicusAdepta SororitasSpace Marines
Xenos: NecronsThe banner above should now be present in all 9th Edition Ruleshammer Articles, this helps you know it’s a 9th Edition Article and not one from 8th. It also serves as a link back to the Ruleshammer Compendium!


Just the one question to answer this week as updates took up a lot of time.

Core – Can I use Stratagems on units that are not on the battlefield?

So first things first: This is something that has been, and is still currently being, HEAVILY DEBATED. Plenty of players have presumptions on both sides and a significant number of events have rulings on it. In 8th edition there was an FAQ item specifically saying that you could not do this, but that item has not been carried forward into the 9th edition rules.

There are two main reasons for a unit that hasn’t been destroyed to not be on the battlefield. The first is that it’s been held to arrive as reinforcements later, either through some rule or Strategic Reserves, or because it’s currently embarked in a Transport. For that second category, Transports have a specific rule that prevents stratagems being used on embarked units.

Unless specifically stated, other units’ abilities have no effect on units while they are embarked, and Stratagems cannot be used to affect units while they are embarked.

And the only Stratagem that does work on these embarked units is Emergency Disembark, though in my opinion it could more specifically address that it’s an exception but it wouldn’t do anything if it wasn’t one. Note

When it comes to the other group well, that’s where things gets weird. There are a large number of Stratagems that are used on units before a game, when they are not on the battlefield. Most of them follow this format:

Use this Stratagem before the battle. Select one [KEYWORD] unit from your army. – such as Veteran Cadre

there are also stratagems that use this wording

Select one [KEYWORD] unit from your army on the battlefield. – such as Adaptive Strategy

Which brings up questions about what the valid targets for a Stratagem are. Only the latter type specifies on the battlefield. Army has a glossary definition but it’s not particularly helpful.

Army: A player’s army consists of every model in their army roster and any models added to it over the course of the battle.

which would include destroyed units as well, though I can’t think of a stratagem that would benefit a destroyed unit. Lets look at an example though,

Bestial Nature
Use this Stratagem in your Command phase if a combat doctrine is active for your army. Select one SPACE WOLVES INFANTRY, SPACE WOLVES CAVALRY or SPACE WOLVES BIKER unit from your army. Until the start of your next Command phase, that unit gains the bonus of the Assault Doctrine instead of the active combat doctrine.

Rules as written I am hard pressed to find a reason why this would not include a unit being held in reinforcements, except if the way said unit in reinforcements was also embarked in a transport such as a Drop Pod. Then the Transport rule would prevent use of the stratagem.

Whilst looking into the answer to this it can be quite surprising just how many abilities work when models or units aren’t on the board.

  • All Deepstrike abilities
  • All Infiltration abilities
  • Abilities that give you a bonus (usually CP) if a specific unit is your Warlord (see: Abaddon)
  • Abilities that improve a unit pre-game, such as Veteran Cadre.
  • Dahyak Grekh (Derrick)’s Conceal Booby traps is specifically FAQed to be useable whilst not on the board, which they can be using another of their abilities

Q: If Dahyak Grekh has been set up in pursuit, can his Concealed Booby Traps ability be used before he is set up on the battlefield?
A: Yes.

which is honestly a surprising answer considering the abilities. Derrick is ready for anything though.

Concealed Booby Traps: Once per battle, at the end of your opponents Movement phase, you can choose an enemy unit on the battlefield and roll a D6. Subtract 1 from the result if the unit is a CHARACTER but add 1 if the unit contains 10 or more models. On a 4+ that unit suffers D3 mortal wounds; on a 7+ it suffers D6 mortal wounds instead.

and there are abilities that specifically don’t work when the model isn’t on the battlefield also.

Whilst your Warlord is alive, you can re-roll a single hit roll, wound roll or saving throw per battle. In addition, if your army is Battle-forged and this Warlord is on the battlefield, roll a D6 for each Command Point you spend to use a Stratagem; on a 5+ that Command Point is immediately refunded.

In conclusion I think the Rules As Written for this is yes, Stratagems can be used on units not on the battlefield as long as they aren’t embarked within a transport. However I think this is another rule that is worth checking with TOs and opponents pregame.

Have any questions or feedback? Got a rules question you want answered? Drop us a note in the comments below, ask a question in our Ruleshammer form, or head over to r/ruleshammer to discuss.