Ruleshammer Battle: Episode 2 – Game Set Up Part 2

Welcome to Ruleshammer! This week is the second “episode” of a series I’m calling Ruleshammer Battle. A step by step explanation of a small game of warhammer 40k. Remember the banner below will take you to the Ruleshammer 9th Edition Compedium, for all the questions I’ve answered for the last few months!

Welcome back! If you missed “Episode 1” I’d recommend having a read of that first to get caught up! We left off having had the Death Guard player choose to be defender and pick a deployment zone. So what comes next?

Picking Secondaries – Step 9

Choosing your Secondary objectives is among the first tactical decisions you make for an actual game, after having decided on the army you’re going to bring. I think the first thing I should mention is that I am by no means an expert at doing this, and knowing what you can achieve is something that will develop as a skill with practice. All I can attest to is how I usually go about deciding.

Secondary objectives are organised into groups, such as Purge the Enemy or Warpcraft. Remember you can only pick one objective from each group.

TheChirurgeon: Note that, as you improve and play more games, you’ll want to build your army with achieving certain secondary objectives in mind, and denying them to the opponent. For your first few games however, these guidelines will work just fine.

Does the enemy provide any obvious choices?

The first thing I’m often looking for when picking objectives is look if there’s ways to be rewarded with VP for things my army will want to be doing anyway, such as killing enemy units. There are several secondaries in the Nachmund GT Missions that reward this, but as the player you need to evaluate if they are worthwhile.

Purge the Enemy – Assassinate for instance, scores 3VP for each CHARACTER model that is destroyed at the end of the battle, plus an additional if the enemy Warlord was killed. The Death Guard list has 4 CHARACTER models: The Chaos Lord, the Malignant Plague Caster, the Plague Surgeon, and the Foulblightspawn. The Tau list however only has one. Killing all four of those Characters for the Tau player would be worth 13VP!

Purge the Enemy – Bring It Down though, is almost the reverse. The Death Guard List only has one VEHICLE or MONSTER – the Plague Burst Crawler and with 12 Wounds it’s only worth 2VP. The Tau list has three VEHICLE models: 2 Devilfish with 13 Wounds each, and 1 Hammerhead with 13 Wounds, making the Tau list with 6VP for this secondary.

No Mercy No Respite – No Prisoners is one that can often give a surprising amount of VP. It’s also an example of a secondary that you might want to prepare for being asked about by working out how many eligible wounds your army has when writing your list. Lets look at how our lists compare for this secondary, eligible units are any that are not VEHICLE, MONSTER, or CHARACTER and we need to know the total wounds of those units combined.

  • The Death Guard list has 3 units that qualify: the two Plague Marine units, and the Deathshroud Bodyguard unit. Each Plague Marine has 2 wounds (20×2), and each Deathshroud Bodyguard has 3 wounds (5×3). Giving the list a total of 55 wounds.
    55 / 10 = 5VP and the tally could fall between 50 and 99 to gain a 1VP bonus, giving the Tau player a max of 6VP they could score.
  • The Tau list has 5 units that qualify: The 2 Fire Warrior Units, the 2 Stealth Units, the Crisis Bodyguard Unit, and the unit of Pathfinders. Fire Warriors and Pathfinders are 1 wound each (30×1), Stealth suits are 2 wounds each (8×2), and their drones are 1 wound each (2×1), the Crisis Bodyguards are 4 Wounds each (2×4). Giving a total of 56 wounds. 56 / 10 = 5VP and the tally could fall between 50 and 99 to gain a 1VP bonus, which also gives the Death Guard player a max of 6VP they could score.

Judging the point at which a secondary is worth choosing can be quite difficult. It’s arguably even more complex in smaller point limit games where armies are less likely to have the units sufficient to offer the max 15VP a secondary can score.

TheChirurgeon: Generally speaking, in 1,000 point games you should prioritize secondary objectives that can score you 15 VP – Stranglehold, Engage on All Fronts, Raise the Banners High, and To the Last – these all give you ways to score 15 VP while the lower point values make kill secondaries much, much worse.

Does my own army provide any obvious choices?

Every faction with a 9th edition codex has access to some custom secondary objectives, to keep things simpler for this series I won’t be using them in this battle. They are definitely something that you should review as they are often catered towards the way a faction plays and will reward you for playing in the way. There are just as many though that are significantly difficult despite their theming.

So without the faction specific secondaries, what do I mean by “your own army providing obvious choices?” There are several objectives around which you can build a list that achieves them reliably.

No Mercy No Respite – To The Last (TTL) is a secondary has you nominate your army’s three most expensive units (points-wise) at the start of the game, then you score 5 VP for each one left alive at the end. This can be great if you think you can keep those units sufficiently protected. Unfortunately for our lists, neither army has ideal options for this. The three most expensive units in the Death Guard list are the Plague Marine units and the Deathshroud Bodyguards. It’s not quite as bad for the Tau list but not amazing – the Commander, the Hammerhead, and the Crisis Bodyguard unit are the TTL targets. Bodyguard units aren’t typically a great fit as they will often be targeted to remove their protection for Characters.

This is another secondary where preparing your army to achieve it is almost vital if you think you might want to choose it.

Battlefield Supremacy Secondaries – Engage on All Fronts and Stranglehold. Both of these are almost always worth considering in my opinion. While the Death Guard player doesn’t have the mobility of Tau, they do have resilient units with several rules that will make removing them from objectives take effort. In contrast, The Tau can move very quickly around the board and use Stealth Suits to infiltrate forward early to make scoring Engage on All Fronts fairly reliable. There will be times when you might even think you can do both of these, but sadly being in the same category you have to pick one.
TheChirurgeon: Pretty much every army in the game should be built to score one or both of these. Stranglehold is one of the game’s most reliable secondary objectives, particularly because it’s scored at the end of your turn, making it difficult for your opponent to stop you from scoring it.

What secondaries should I consider falling back on?

This is something that will vary from player to player, and faction to faction. Some lists will score objective better than others.

  • If you have the INFANTRY units to spare Raise the Banners High is a solid objective to add to the reward of playing to the Primary objective well. Remember that Characters can raise banners, too!
  • If you have any INFANTRY or TROOPs units with either decent speed or some form of reinforcement ability then Retrieve Nachmund Data is usually a solid score. It also doesn’t depend as much on the game size, meaning it would score comparatively high in our game here compared to others. It’s also great for units that arrive from deep strike.
  • If you have a PSYKER CHARACTER and your opponent has more than one character (and ideally no psykers of their own), then Psychic Interrogation can also be a good pick, particularly on smaller table sizes.
  • Grind Them Down is often my go-to secondary if there’s not a more specific killing secondary apparent. A quick comparison of unit count and experience of how tough your army and how difficult to kill your opponents units are is vital though. In this game’s case the Death Guard list has 8 units, the Tau list 10, and a good chunk of the Death Guard army is characters that can’t be shot at until caught alone.
    TheChirurgeon: Grind Them Down is, generally, a trap. Don’t take it if you can help it. It’s not a bad pick for Death Guard here, though.

What are our armies picking then?

Now is as good a time as any to introduce the score card we’ll be using for this game with our factions secondary choices!

Deployment and Determining First Turn – Steps 10 to 12

Declaring Reserves and Transports

With secondaries chosen and revealed we get one step closer to actually putting some models on the board! First though we need to clarify where the units we’re not going to put on the board are.

Strategic Reserves

For units that don’t have any abilities that allow them to deploy off the battlefield you can use Strategic Reserves. Regardless of whether you are using points for your matched play game, putting units into Strategic Reserves costs a number of CP dependent on the Power Level of the unit or units you want to put into reserve. Power Levels change every so often so be sure to check the latest levels from GW here (as of 2022-06-02). The other distinct feature of Strategic Reserves is how they enter the board: Unlike most reinforcement abilities, units arriving from Strategic Reserves have to be deployed within 6″ of a battlefield edge (which edges you can deploy near depends on the round your unit arrives).

In This Battle: The Tau player is spending 1CP to put their Hammerhead into Strategic reserves, it has a power rating of 8, which means it falls into the 1-9 level. This does leave space for a unit of 1PL but there are none to make use of it with.

Tactical Note: Tau actually have a Warlord Trait called Examplar of Kauyon that allows a Tau player to redeploy 1 or up to 3 (depending on other choices) units into Strategic Reserve from the Battlefield after determining who has first turn. As there is a Stratagem to add a second Warlord Trait to the army as well this would likely be the better way of putting a Hammerhead into reserves, with the added information of knowing who has first turn. Our battle’s Tau army lacks a second character to give the trait to, however.

Other Reserves

Several units in both armies have abilities to deploy somewhere other than the battlefield, using such abilities causes these units to be “Reinforcement Units”. For the Death Guard there are Deathshroud Bodyguards, who have the Teleport Strike ability. For Tau there’s the Commander and the Crisis Bodyguards that both have Manta Strike.

Although similar, the Infiltrators rule that Tau Stealth Suits have does not need to be declared at this time. They can simply deploy outside of the deployment zone during deployment, so long as they follow the rules set out.

In this Battle: The Crisis Bodyguard Unit and the Deathshroud Terminators are declaring their intention to deploy using their reinforcement abilities; as such they will not be set up during deployment.


Lastly, not that it has to be last as it’s usually fairly obvious, is declaring transports and their contents. Often this information will be present on the army list or heavily implied by it. It matters far more when the contents of transports in an army differ but in our battle they will not.

Despite not being deployed onto the battlefield, units inside transports are not reinforcement units unless the transport they are embarked with is also not deployed on the battlefield at the start of the game. So units inside transports like Drop Pods or Tyrannocytes count as reinforcement units when they arrive and disembark.

In this Battle: Each of the Tau Devilfish units will have a unit of Tau Fire Warrior Breachers inside.


Finally – Putting models on the board! To deploy armies, each player selects a unit they wish to deploy and they place it on the board. The unit must be set up in coherency and within your deployment zone, unless they have a rule to deploy elsewhere. Players alternate doing this unit by unit – starting with the Defender – until both armies have deployed all their models.

As the Defender in this game, the Death Guard Player chooses the top deployment zone. Then they deploy a unit of Plague Marines behind this ruin. Being within the ruin would allow a unit to see them through the gap in the wall but being outside of the area allows the Obscuring rule to keep them out of sight.

Lacking any infiltration of their own, the Death Guard player can’t limit where the Tau player can infiltrate their first unit of Stealth suits. I’ve marked down the area that’s off limits to the Stealth Suits below; if the Death Guard had any units which could forward deploy into No Man’s Land, they could deploy them first and that would mean that the Stealth Suits couldn’t deploy within 9″ of that unit.

As stated, deployment continues alternating between players and we end up with both armies deployed. Generally once deployed I like to keep reinforcement units and units in transports off the board edge somewhere visible rather than leaving them in a case or box, just so that both players have a good visual reminder of what’s still waiting to arrive during the battle.

With that mind, here’s our board after deployment:

The numbers signify the order things were deployed in (other than the off the battlefield and embarked units). I’ll be using these numbers throughout this series to refer to specific units, here’s a list of what everything is including the units not deployed yet which I have highlighted.

Determine First Turn

The very last step of setup is determining who gets to take the first turn of the game. This is a simple roll of and the winner goes first. Some older editions of the game and early mission packs for 9th edition let the winner choose between first or second, but GT2022 Nachmund missions have the winner of the roll go first with no choice.

That’s all until next time!

That’s where this first episode will end, game set up is something that you get quicker at with practice. Next week I’ll cover pre-battle abilities, and the first turn!

Ruleshammer Battle Index

Episode 1 – Game Set Up Part 1
Episode 2 – Game Set Up Part 2
Episode 3 – Pre-Battle Abilities, Tau Turn 1 Part 1
Episode 4 – The Tau Turn 1 Part 2
Episode 5 – Tau VP and Death Guard Turn 1 Part 1
Episode 6 – Death Guard Turn 1 Shooting Phase

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.