Ruleshammer: Actions

With the new edition nearly upon us, we had Rob “Vre’kais” Chilton sit down with the new rulebook in the Indomitus boxed set and write his thoughts (in great detail) on the new rules – what’s changed, what needs clarification, and what you need to know. Ruleshammer will be doing daily posts over the next two weeks talking about key changes to the rules and going over each phase of the game. Today it is Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones’ turn to temporarily seize the coveted judges’ wig to talk about Actions, as Rob is using his metaphorical turn to perform an action called “write the Ruleshammer about Terrain.”


Today we’re looking at Actions! Unlike some of the previous topics we’ve covered, Actions are a new addition to the Warhammer 40,000 rules, albeit an addition that dedicated tournament players will likely be familiar with under the guise of Engineers and Sappers in the NOVA and ITC rules. Some rules let a unit perform an Action; each action specifies when it can be performed, the location a unit must be at to perform that action, any other conditions for attempting the action, and when it is completed.

You can declare a unit from your army will start to perform an action provided there are no enemy units within Engagement Range of it (excluding AIRCRAFT) and it did not Advance or Fall Back this turn. AIRCRAFT units and units with the Fortifications Battlefield Role cannot perform actions. A unit can only attempt to perform one action per battle round, and the same action cannot be started by more than one  unit from your army in the same battle round. [Book p.258]

Units that are performing actions are limited – a CHARACTER unit cannot use any aura abilities while performing an action, and if your unit does any of the following things before it completes, then it fails:

Once an Action is failed, a Character’s Aura abilities can be used again, so if you need to access an ability more than you need to complete an Action, you have options. Though note that you cannot voluntarily chose to stop completing an Action – you must perform one of the listed activities to cause the Action to fail. So if it’s the Morale phase and you need to stop performing an action in order to use an aura, you’re going to be stuck.

TheChirurgeon: James “One_Wing” Grover and I ran into this issue in an early game of 9th when he started an action with his Autarch and then wanted to use its aura to re-roll hit rolls. Even if he wanted to shoot with the Autarch to turn its aura ability back on, he had already started shooting with the unit that would have benefit, and so could not do one of the things required to fail the Action and turn the aura ability back on.

So basically units that perform Actions need to see those actions through, typically by staying alive and not doing anything else for a full turn. Though if you need to break out of that for strategic purposes you can. Just don’t forget that a unit is supposed to be completing an action or you could cause it to fail inadvertently.

Actions in Secondary Objectives

The first place many players will come across Actions is in 9th edition’s Secondary Objectives. There are five Secondary Objectives that allow an army to perform an Action that scores victory points if completed. Three are “standard” Actions and two are Psychic Actions, which we’ll talk about in more detail in a bit. Of these, note that an Action may offer exemptions to the standard Action rules – Raise the Banners High specifies that it can be performed by one or more INFANTRY units from your army at the end of your Movement phase; this is an exception to the rule that an action can only be performed by one unit per turn, and an area where the specific overrules the general (the tradeoff however is that only INFANTRY may perform this action, and the reward in victory points is relatively small). Likewise, Siphon Power (Action) from The Four Pillars mission also allows for multiple units performing the same Action in a phase.

Positioning and Actions

Some actions require you to be in a specific position on the battlefield, such as “within 6″ of the centre of the battlefield” or “wholly within your opponent’s deployment zone.” Note that these follow the standard rules for being “within” or “wholly within” that we covered in our 9th Edition Core Concepts article.

Mission-Specific Actions

Some missions offer additional Secondary Objective options that are specific to the mission; some of these also allow a player to perform an Action. There’s nothing particularly special about these, but note that like with other actions, the types of units that can attempt them may vary.


Psychic Actions

There is a special class of Action – Psychic Actions, which represent a psyker doing all manner of wizardly deeds. Unlike normal Actions, which can be started in different phases, Psychic Actions are attempted in the Psychic phase:

A PSYKER unit from your army can attempt to perform a psychic action in its Psychic phase instead of attempting to manifest any psychic powers. a PSYKER unit cannot attempt to perform a psychic action if it has Fallen Back this turn; or if it is also attempting to perform another action.. A PSYKER unit can only attempt to perform one psychic action a battle round. [Book p.258]

Performing a Psychic Action requires passing a Psychic test in the same manner as attempting to manifest a psychic power (each Psychic Action has a Warp Charge value). Note that this is a full Psychic test – you can still suffer Perils of the Warp on a double 1 or a double 6, and a PSYKER unit within 24″ of that PSYKER can attempt to deny that that action in the same manner as if they were attempting to deny a psychic power, by passing a Deny the Witch test.

Some important things to note here:

  • Performing a Psychic Action is not manifesting a Psychic Power, and so will not trigger any abilities that depend on this happening, such as a Malignant Plaguecaster’s Pestilential Fallout ability.
  • Only enemy PSYKERS can be selected to attempt to deny a psychic action, so units that otherwise have the ability to deny a psychic power like Black Templars Chaplain Grimaldus with his Devout Puritan rule can’t be selected here.
  • Although the attempt to deny a Psychic Action uses a Deny the Witch test, Psychic Actions are not psychic powers and so as written, attempting to deny a psychic action won’t count against the number of attempts a PSYKER can make to deny psychic powers in a given turn. This seems unintentional and it could (and probably should) change but for now there’s no downside to attempting to deny every psychic action a player attempts if you have a psyker in range.

Wings: The important thing to note about Psychic Actions is that, as far as I can tell from the rules, they are a totally independent category of action from normal ones, so some of the limitations on standard actions (not having advanced, not being in engagement range) don’t apply – the rules here are complete in their own right. I also definitely come down on the side that this will be errataed to use a Deny attempt, and interact normally with any abilities that let a non-PSYKER deny a power.

Actions Conclusions

Actions add an interesting new wrinkle to the game, making missions more complicated and giving many different units more ways to affect the scoring of games.

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.