Ruleshammer – Aircraft

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Minimum Move Rules

Aircraft models typically have a Move characteristic consisting of two values. The first is the model’s minimum Move characteristic – in its Movement phase, all parts of the model’s base must end the move at least that far from where they started. The second is its maximum Move characteristic – no part of the model’s base can be moved further than this. If such a model’s Move characteristic is modified, its minimum and maximum Move characteristics are both modified. If an Aircraft model cannot make its minimum move, or its minimum move would result in any part of that model (including its base) crossing the edge of the battlefield, then unless you are using the Strategic Reserves rule, that model is removed from the battlefield and counted as destroyed (if the Aircraft is a Transport, then any models currently embarked within are likewise counted as destroyed). The Strategic Reserves rule is described in the Warhammer 40,000 Core Book.{CORE PDF Page13]

Aircraft vary but most of them have some version of the supersonic rule;

Supersonic: Each time this model moves, first pivot it on the spot up to 90° (this does not contribute to how far the model moves), and then move the model straight forwards. Note that it cannot pivot again after the initial pivot. When this model Advances, increase its Move characteristic by 20″ until the end of the phase – do not roll a dice.

This rule specifically gives you a 90° turn for free before you start the move, and then you measure from that position rather than where the model was at the start of the turn. They also don’t need to avoid obstacles in the movement phase because of the FLY keyword.

If the aircraft does not have the supersonic rule or a version of it then it can move normally, but it can’t move in a loop and claim to have moved it’s minimum move because of this specific part of the rule.

 …in its Movement phase, all parts of the model’s base must end the move at least that far from where they started

Aircraft and Engagement Range

Although Aircraft models have an Engagement Range (pg 4) like any other model, the following rules and exceptions apply to it – this will account for the fact that typically Aircraft models are soaring overhead and not skimming along the ground. 

Whenever a model makes any kind of move, it can be moved across Aircraft models (and their bases) as if they were not there, and they can be moved within an enemy Aircraft model’s Engagement Range, but it cannot end the move on top of another model (or its base), and it cannot end the move within Engagement Range of any enemy Aircraft models.

If, when an Aircraft unit is selected to Move in the Movement phase, any enemy units are within Engagement Range of it, that Aircraft unit can still make a Normal Move or an Advance (i.e. it does not have to Fall Back or Remain Stationary). 

If, when a unit is selected to move in the Movement phase, the only enemy models that are within Engagement Range of it are Aircraft, then it can still make a Normal Move or an Advance (i.e. it does not have to Fall Back or Remain Stationary).{CORE PDF Page13]

This is a fairly wordy rule, but here’s a few key parts.

Also remember from that Heroic Interventions, Pile Ins or Consolidation moves ignore Aircraft when determining the closest enemy model unless they have the FLY keyword.

Known Issues

Charging Aircraft

Charging Aircraft seems to be (and mostly is) against the rules when you first read them. This section of the AIRCRAFT rules is why.

Whenever a model makes any kind of move, it can be moved across Aircraft models (and their bases) as if they were not there, and they can be moved within an enemy Aircraft model’s Engagement Range, but it cannot end the move on top of another model (or its base), and it cannot end the move within Engagement Range of any enemy Aircraft models.- [GT2020 Pg66, Core PDF Pg13]

As models can’t end within Engagement Range of them when making ANY kind of move, with no exception for models that can Fly. GW addressed this with a recent FAQ which I talked about earlier in the week.

It is not normally possible to end any kind of move within Engagement Range of an enemy Aircraft model. However, many Aircraft models have an ability (e.g. Airborne) that specifically says that they can only be charged by enemy units that can Fly. Such rules take precedence over those in the Core book, and units that can Fly can indeed declare a charge against an Aircraft model, and they can end a charge move within Engagement Range of it. [Core Book FAQ pg.3] 

On the one hand, yay they confirmed that Aircraft can be charged by flying units. Any sensible pregame discussion was coming to this conclusion in my opinion and it absolutely still should regardless of what I’m about to say next. They went and tied this rule to the presence of rules such as Airborne. This on the surface might seem fine, it’s when you get to things that have a hover mode rules that it gets silly again.

Hover Jet: Before this model moves in your Movement phase, you can declare it will hover. Its Move characteristic becomes 20″ until the end of the phase, and it loses the Airborne, Hard to Hit and Supersonic abilities until the beginning of your next Movement phase. 

By losing Airborne it loses the “such rules” that allow it to be charged. All that being said, forget I pointed this out. It’s really pedantic and if anyone tried to play with this interpretation seriously I would laugh.


Bombing Runs and Strategic Reserves

It’s currently not clear if a model that can use a bomb ability, can do so in a turn it leaves the board for strategic reserves. For now generally models not on the board can’t use their abilities (except if that ability specifically mentions it like a reinforcement ability). So It’s probably best to play that bombers can not bomb when leaving, perhaps because their attention is focused elsewhere that turn. Alternatively discuss this with your opponent before the game.

UPDATE 2020-10-01: After further debate; essentially I’m not sure what the answer is or what is should be. My hesitance to rule it one way or the other is based on two issues;

  1. The Strategic Reserves rules for AIRCRAFT are vague on if the model actually makes the move. They have to be able to reach a board edge or be in a position where their minimum would force them to reach one. It’s not clear if the model moves and is then removed, or not. I’d like that addressed because the rest of the leave the board mid game abilities you just pick the model up. It is implied that the move is still made if you’re choosing to leave rather than being forced to.
  2. It’s perhaps not said explicitly but generally the only abilities on datasheets that can be used when not on the board, are abilities to come on as reinforcements. These abilities have their exception to not using abilities for models not on the board written in to them. I grant this is no explicit rule saying this though, there’s just the mechanical issue that almost all abilities require you to select a model on the board to use. The act of putting a model into strat reserves has removed the model, leaving it in limbo. I think there’s evidence from the core rules and FAQs that more abilities are meant to able to function off board in 9th, so I’m half expecting an FAQ on this in the future.

Those two issues lead me to write that I’m not sure there’s an answer but that for now I felt “no” was the safest. Maybe that was wrong but it avoided the “feels bad” of being attacked by a model you can’t possibly retaliate against that turn. In more narrative terms of  “what bombers do” the argument is strong that they should be able to bomb. However I’d prefer that to be codified in a change to the Strategic Reserves rule to make the move definitely a thing, and potentially to change the bombing rules to be a bit like Valkyries where it’s a thing that they can do at any point during their move.

As ever this is a pregame discussion thing, and my points are really about 40k rules being written to tell you what a unit can do and when. Importantly If there’s no rule saying you can do something, then there being no rule saying you can’t doesn’t mean you can.

Moving an Aircraft Half Distance

There are a few abilities and rules that require a model to move half its max distance in order to benefit, for aircraft this is potentially unclear as they do have two movement characteristics. However it does only have a single maximum move, so the widely accepted interpretation is that the model must move less than half of that max, but more than its minimum. Some players have suggested it must move a distance halfway between its minimum and it’s maximum but I don’t think that’s supported by the rules as they are written. 

AIRCRAFT and Obscuring Terrain

An aircraft can still be out of sight, it’s just rare and they don’t benefit from the Obscuring rule.

  • If you had a solid piece of terrain that fully blocks LoS to an Aircraft, then it is not visible.
  • If that piece of terrain had some windows and the obscuring rule (and was over 5″) then if you can see the Aircraft through any of the windows it is visible. The obscuring rule does not block Line of Sight for models with more than 18 wounds or that are AIRCRAFT.

There was some confusion about obscuring as it says the 18+ wound and AIRCRAFT models “are visible”, which seemed to indicate that even solid terrain didn’t block for them if it was Obscuring. This was a bit odd. It maybe made sense for AIRCRAFT that are meant to be high up but if the rule for seeing them was representing them being high up then it becomes even more odd that the measuring range rules don’t do this (like maybe treating them as if they were 9″ further away so that Flamers aren’t amazing Anti Air weapons). Games Workshop have since then almost addressed this in the FAQs…

Obscuring and Dense Cover are two terrain traits introduced with ninth edition that interact with visibility. These rules do not overwrite the normal rules for determining visibility, though – they are in addition to them. Specifically, even though the Obscuring rules state that Aircraft and models with a Wounds characteristic of 18+ can be seen through Obscuring terrain, they are still only visible (and hence eligible) targets if the firing model can physically see them (so if the terrain in question is solid and opaque, they are still not eligible targets).

I say they’ve almost addressed it, because they said all that (and some other stuff about Dense Cover) but haven’t actually fixed the wording of the rule. So we know how it should work, which is fine we can play this correctly now at least, but the rule still says something else.

Games Workshop FAQ


Ruleshammer Q&A

Relentless Expansion an Aircraft into Reserves

Hi, can necrons use ‘relentlessly expansionist’ (the pregame 6 inch move) to put an aircraft into strategic reserves? (E.g. you move your night scythe into reserve ready to bring it on T2 and deliver your lychguard bomb).

I’m not sure if the minimum move of 20 inches would stop this, or in fact if you could even move a flyer off the board and into reserves, as the rule says that aircraft can move into reserves in their movement phase. Thanks! – True son of Dorn

Okay so there’s a few things to unpack here. I think best not in the order you’ve asked though. For those not in the know here’s the Relentless advance Necron trait.

At the start of the First Battle Round, before the first turn begins, units with this code can make a Normal Move of up to 6”.

Does an Aircraft Minimum move cause any issues?

No. This is because the AIRCRAFT minimum move requirements are during “its movement phase”. 

The first is the model’s minimum Move characteristic – in its Movement phase, all parts of the model’s base must end the move at least that far from where they started. – [Core Rules PDF Pg13, GT2020 Pg66]

So AIRCRAFT with a minimum move can still make the up to 6” move without automatically putting themselves into Strategic Reserves because they can’t move their full minimum.

But can I choose to put the Aircraft in Strategic Reserves if I want to?

Actually also no, mostly for the reasons you found. They are only moved into strategic reserves in the movement phase. The wording does get a bit confusing though so my confidence on this is only 99% specifically the part starting “similarly”.

If you have a battleforged army, AIRCRAFT units from your army can, in your movement phase, move off the edge of the battlefield (assuming it has sufficient Move for any part of its base (or hull) touch the edge of the battlefield). If an AIRCRAFT unit does so, it’s placed into strategic Reserves. Similarly, if you have an AIRCRAFT unit with a minimum Move characteristic that cannot make its minimum move, or is forced to move off the battlefield because of its minimum move, then it is placed into Strategic Reserves. – GT2020 Pg81

It would be easy to read that section and come to the conclusion that if AIRCRAFT can’t move their minimum they are automatically put into Strategic Reserves. However the key word there is “similarly”, encompasses the other criteria of the previous clause; having your army be battleforged and that it’s during the AIRCRAFT’s movement phase.


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