Ruleshammer Battle: Episode 6 – Death Guard Shooting!

Welcome to Ruleshammer! This week is the sixth “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 Compendium, for all the questions I’ve answered for the last few months!

Welcome back! If you missed Episode (5), I’d recommend having a read of that first to get caught up! Last episode we went through all the Tau’s secondary scoring, and the Death Guard Movement phase. This week the Death Guard start blasting!

Shooting Phase

First of all let’s look at the board; like the Tau player, the Death Guard player needs to think about how their shooting is going to affect the board. Unlike the Tau shooting, targets becoming obscured is less likely but instead shooting can change how far these units might have to charge, and some of them are relying on Charges to secure objectives. Finding the right balance between softening up a target and making charges harder is a skill that comes with practice.

Rob: Generally speaking, Death Guard will do more damage in melee than shooting, since their bolters don’t even have AP and being in engagement range will mean the Fire Warriors are affected by their Contagion. You want to avoid making your charges any harder than a 7+ if you can.

Start of the Shooting Phase

The Death Guard player doesn’t declare any abilities or Stratagems that specifically are used at the start of the Shooting phase and wants to move straight on to some blasting!

It’s sometimes worth checking if your opponent has any start-of-shooting rules to declare, and in this game the Tau player does not.

During the Shooting Phase

Let’s start with this little skirmish over in the top left quarter. One of the Death Guard’s key abilities is Contagions of Nurgle. The Plague Marines have this, and specifically this contagion.

Nurgle’s Gift (Contagion): While an enemy unit is within Contagion Range of this unit (see below), subtract 1 from the Toughness characteristic of models in that enemy unit.

Contagion range varies from Round to Round; in round 1 it’s 1″. So it won’t affect any of the Fire Warriors (16) or Stealth Suits (4) as they’re more than 1″ away, for now.

Here the Plague Marine unit (3) is going to shoot at the unit of Fire Warriors (16), the Tau player selected the Sept Tenet Reinforced Armour when writing their list.

Each time a ranged attack is made with a weapon that has a Strength characteristic of 7 or less against a VEHICLE or BATTLESUIT unit with this tenet, subtract 1 from the Strength characteristic of that attack.

As Fire Warriors are neither vehicle or battlesuit, this tenet won’t affect the Plague Marine unit’s shooting. To add some extra bite to these shots, the Death Guard are going to make use of the Virulent Rounds Stratagem for 1CP.

Use this Stratagem in your Shooting phase, when a DEATH GUARD CORE unit from your army is selected to shoot. Until the end of the phase, bolt weapons models in that unit are equipped with have the Plague Weapon ability.

CP Update!
Tau: 8
Death Guard: 12 – 1 = 11

Once again lets go through the steps of the first attack with some detail. The Plague Marines have 5 Boltguns.

  • They will each get 2 shots due to Rapid Fire, for a total of 10 shots.
  • They will hit on 3+ due to the Plague Marines’ BS
  • They will wound on 3+, since it’s Strength 4 vs Toughness 3
  • They will re-roll 1s to wound due to their weapons gaining the Plague Weapon ability from the Virulent Rounds Stratagem
  • The Fire Warriors (16) will save using their 4+ armour save.

Let’s roll some dice then! They roll 10 shots, and get 6 hits. Those 6 hits get 6 wounds, but with no 1s to re-roll in the results. This is one of the frustrating elements of a dice game, sometimes the dice make your CP spending irrelevant. The Tau player now needs to make six 4+ saves. There’s no cover to use so it’s just a straight save. They fail 3 of them. Each one does 1 wound, killing one Fire Warrior Each.

To take this objective the Plague Marines (3) need to outnumber for Fire Warriors (16). Currently, before any charge moves there are only 2 Plague Marines on the objective, and there are still 7 Fire Warriors. There’s also 2 Stealth Suits and 1 Drone, making the total counts Death Guard 2, Tau 9. The Stealth Suit and Drone models only contribute as long as a Fire Warrior is alive on the objective; this is because both the Plague Marines and Fire Warriors have the Objective Secured ability.

Some units have an ability called Objective Secured. A player controls an objective marker if they have any models with this ability within range of that objective marker, even if there are more enemy models within range of that objective marker. If an enemy model within range of an objective marker also has this ability (or a similar ability), then the objective marker is controlled by the player who has the most models within range of that objective marker as normal.

While both sides have models with this ability within range of an objective, then it’s simply whichever side has the most models within range. However if all the Fire Warriors die then it becomes either whichever side has any Objective Secured models on the point, which would be the Plague Marines as the Stealth suit unit doesn’t have the ability, or if neither side has any Objective Secured then it’s back to the side with the most models in range.  All of this information makes picking the target for the Foul Blightspawn (11) harder, as they either try to further soften up the Fire Warriors (16) or try to remove the threat of the Stealth Suits (4) and rely on Fighting to secure control. There’s the risk that killing further Fire Warriors could make the charge less likely to succeed, they are currently 2.9″ away though and the furthest away mode is 4.8″, so it’s not a massive risk, needing at most a 4″ charge.

As such the Foul Blightspawn (11) will use their Unholy Death’s Grenade. This is a Blast weapon.

Some weapons have ‘Blast’ listed in their profile’s abilities. These are referred to as Blast weapons. In addition to the normal rules, the following rules apply to Blast weapons:
1) If a Blast weapon targets a unit that has between 6 and 10 models, it always makes a minimum of 3 attacks. So if, when determining how many attacks are made with that weapon, the dice rolled results in less than 3 attacks being made, make 3 attacks instead. For example, if a Grenade D6 weapon with the Blast rule targets a unit that has 6 or more models, and you roll a 2 to determine how many attacks are made, that roll is counted as being a 3 and that weapon makes three attacks against that unit.
2) When a Blast weapon targets a unit that has 11 or more models, do not roll dice to randomly determine how many attacks are made – instead, make the maximum possible number of attacks. For example, if a Grenade D6 weapon with the Blast rule targets a unit that has 11 or more models, that weapon makes six attacks against that unit.

As the Fire Warriors (16) still have more than 6 models, the minimum number of attacks that this weapon will make is 3. As a 2D6 weapon though they absolutely should still roll as the chances of more than 3 is quite hit. Note that the minimum is for the rolled result, not for each dice! The result of a dice roll in Warhammer 40k is the total of the dice added together. There’s a FAQ Rare Rule that covers this with an example.

Blast and Multiple Dice Rolls
In addition to the errata here, we wanted to briefly add an additional example to explain how the Blast rule works when shooting a weapon that requires more than one dice roll to determine its number of attacks. For example, if a Heavy 2D3 weapon with the Blast rule targets a unit that has 6 or more models, and you roll a double 1 to determine how many attacks are made, that result is less than 3 and so that weapon makes 3 attacks against that target. If the same weapon targets a unit that has 11 or more models, that weapon makes six attacks against that unit.

In our case it’s 2D6, so they roll that and get 7! After this the weapon’s attacks are resolved as normal – it’s 7 shots, Range 6″, Strength 5, AP-1, 1 Damage and the Blight Spawn as BS 3+. They get 4 hits, which manage 4 wounds, and the Fire Warriors fail 3 of their saves (requiring a 5+), losing 3 more models.

Still some work to be done by the Death Guard in this top corner in the Fight Phase, but a decent start. The Fire Warrior unit also fairly likely now to lose more models in the morale phase, failing their test on a 3+ against their LD of 8 (6 losses plus 3 = 9, which is greater than 8). That’s before any more losses to close combat!

Let’s move on now to small gang of Death Guard Characters who want to kill some Fire Warriors in the top right quarter.

The situation on this side of the board is even more fragile. The characters have some long charges already, fortunately not slowed by Difficult Terrain due to Inexorable Advance.

  • The Plague Caster (7) is 6.1″ away, needing a 6″ charge.
  • The Chaos Lord (13) and the Plague Surgeon (9) are 7.1″ away, needing a 7″ charge.

If the Tau player removes the model in range of objective 3 as a casualty, that will make the charge further for the Plague Caster, if they remove that model and next two models adjacent then they won’t be able to charge onto objective 3, as getting within Engagement Range of the unit would take then outside of the Objective’s range.

Rather than risk this, the Death Guard player decides not to shoot at the Fire Warrior unit. They have no other targets; they can’t shoot at the Tau Commander (12) because it is within Engagement Range of a friendly unit and they can’t shoot at the Devilfish (10) because it is too far away for their 12″ range shooting weapons.

That brings us the the Plagueburst Crawler (5). As a Vehicle the Crawler can make us of the Big Guns Never Tire rule to shoot at the Commander (12) despite being within Engagement Range.

A VEHICLE or MONSTER model can make attacks with ranged weapons even when its unit is within Engagement Range of enemy units, but it can only make such attacks against enemy units that it is within Engagement Range of. In such circumstances, VEHICLE and MONSTER models can target an enemy unit even if other friendly units are within Engagement Range of the same enemy unit. Note that if a VEHICLE or MONSTER unit has more than one ranged weapon, you can still choose to target units that are not within Engagement Range of the firing model’s unit, but they will only be able to make the attacks with that weapon if all enemy units within Engagement Range of the firing model’s unit have been destroyed when you come to resolve those attacks. In addition, when a VEHICLE or MONSTER model shoots a Heavy weapon, subtract 1 from the hit rolls when resolving that weapon’s attacks while any enemy units are within Engagement Range of that model’s unit.

However the main gun for the Plagueburst Crawler is a BLAST weapon, and they can’t be fired at targets within Engagement Range.

Blast weapons can never be used to make attacks against a unit that is within Engagement Range of the firing model’s unit, even if the weapon has the Pistol type or if the firing model is a VEHICLE or a MONSTER – firing high-explosives at point-blank range is simply unwise.

What they can do though, is declare that the Plagueburst mortar will target something outside of Engagement Range, and then resolve those attacks if the all the units within Engagement Range die first. So just in case of that happening, the Mortar will be targeting the Devilfish, it is actually “not visible” due to the Obscuring terrain piece so it will take the indirect penalties if those attacks are allowed to be made.

Rob: Note that the Entropy Cannons and Mortar are plague weapons, and as such re-roll 1s to wound.

First though it has two Entropy Cannons and a Heavy Slugger to shoot at the Commander. All of these weapons are heavy so the hit rolls will have a -1 modifier, and as the Crawler is on 4 wounds its BS is currently 4+ meaning they will hit on 5s.

Note: Inexorable Advance does have a clause excluding VEHICLES from the -1 to hit penalty for firing heavy weapons against targets within Engagement Range, however only BUBONIC ASTARTES units in Death Guard armies gain the Inexorable Advance ability, and Plagueburst Crawlers lack that keyword so they don’t get the ability. This is a situation where until you get to know your army, the importance of a detailed army list with good notes can not be understated.

Entropy Cannons are Strength 8 weapons and so are not affected by Reinforced armour, but the Strength 5 Heavy Slugger will be as the Commander is a BATTLESUIT unit reducing their Strength to 4. However, the Commander is within 1″ of the Crawler, and is therefore affected by the Nurgle’s Gift Contagion, reducing their toughness by 1 to 4 as well.

  • The Entropy cannons shoot: 2 shots, hitting on 5+ getting 1 hit, wounding on 2+ getting 1 wound, AP-4 goes straight through the Commander’s 3+ save (a 6 – 4 = 2 so no roll would succeed) causing D3+3 damage and managing to do 6 wounds! Leaving the Commander on 1 Wound remaining.
  • The Heavy Slugger next: 4 shots, hitting on 5+ getting 2 hits, wounding on 4+. The slugger scores 2 wounds, and at AP-1 that means the Commander saves on a 4+. The Commander fails 1 of them and is destroyed.

So the good news for the Death Guard is that the Tau Commander was destroyed, the bad news is that he has a bomb.

Use this Stratagem in any phase, when a BATTLESUIT model from your army is destroyed. Before removing that model from play, instead of using any rules that are triggered when that model is destroyed (e.g. the Explodes ability), roll one D6 for each unit within 3″ of that model, adding 1 to the roll if the destroyed model has a Wounds characteristic of 12 or more: on a 3-5, that unit suffers D3 mortal wounds; on a 6+, that unit suffers 3 mortal wounds.

CP Update!
Tau: 8 – 1 = 7
Death Guard: 11

We do still have the Mortar to resolve, and players might wonder which happens first between resolving the Mortar and this stratagem. There is a clear answer to this found in the rules glossary under the term “when”.

When: If a rule states that it takes place when a certain trigger occurs, unless otherwise specified, that rule takes effect before any others.

So “when” rules can interrupt and are resolved sometimes in the middle of an ongoing thing such as shooting. This is important though as the Crawler is only on 4 wounds, if this stratagem succeeds it could reduce the tank to its bottom wound bracket. The Tau player rolls for the one unit within 3″ which is the Plagueburst Crawler and gets a 4. So the tank takes D3 mortal wounds, 3! This reduces the Crawler down to 1 wound. The Tau Commander (12) is then removed from play.

Now we resolve the Mortar at the Devilfish. It’s Strength 8 so it’s not affected by Reinforced Armour, but the Devilfish is obscured so we need to follow the Indirect Fire rules (these rules are not in the core rules they are part of the Balance Dataslate you can find here this article was written using the Q2 2022 Dataslate but that is no longer available)

An Indirect Fire weapon is one that can target units that are not visible to the bearer (e.g. mortars, smart-missile systems, impaler cannons, etc.). If such a weapon targets a unit that is not visible (i.e. no models in a target unit are visible to the firing unit when you selected it as a target), then each time an attack is made with that weapon against that target this phase, worsen the Ballistic Skill characteristic of that attack by 1 and add 1 to any armour saving throws made against that attack.

So the BS of the Crawler is normally 5+ when on 1 wound, but the Indirect rule will reduce that to 6+. The Devilfish (10) is a unit of one model so the Blast rule won’t make any difference.

  • So it’s just D6 shots,
  • Hits on 6+,
  • Strength 8 so wounding on 3+ with re-rolls of 1 to wound for Plague Weapon,
  • At AP-2 but the target gets +1 to their saves because of Indirect Fire. The Devilfish has a 3+ so AP-2 would normally required 5+ saves but with +1 we’re back to 4+ saves.

The Plagueburst crawler rolls for its number of shots (D6) and gets 4. It makes 4 shots hitting on 6+ and gets 1 hit. Wounding on a 3+ it scores 1 wound, and the Devilfish makes its 4+ save, resulting in 0 damage inflicted.

End of the Shooting Phase

We’ve reach the end of the Shooting phase, and even with a small number of units lots of decisions have to be made. The Death Guard player has already scored a unit kill this turn and still has charging and fighting to do. Here’s the board after the shooting is over.

Diagram 48 End of Shooting

Next Time: The Death Guard come charging in!

Another eventful phase! In episode 7 we’ll finally get stuck in with proper Death Guard Melee!

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 Command, Movement, and Psychic Phases
Episode 4 – The Tau Turn 1 Shooting, Melee, and Morale Phases
Episode 5 – Tau VP and Death Guard Turn 1 Begins
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.