Ruleshammer – Transports, Open Topped and other related shenanigans

Although we love Warhammer 40,000, the game’s complexity can be daunting, particularly for newer players. In Ruleshammer, we look at the nuances of the game’s rules and how they affect gameplay, clearing up potential issues and helping make sense of some of the game’s less common interactions. In today’s Ruleshammer, Rob “Vre’kais” Chilton covers how Transports work and interact with other rules.

This is an article about 8th Edition rules, later editions of 40k have since been released.

Basic Transport Rules

Transports started out 8th with one small section of the rules but have since become a varied and often conflicting area with different rules and abilities layered to create plenty of confusion to new and experienced players, making them the perfect topic for Ruleshammer to cover. A lot of it does work pretty well, some of it is just weird and some of I hasten to say probably needs an FAQ; Judge Ruleshamer might make an appearance for some of these.


Generally embarking is the least confusing part of the transport rules, it has a clearly defined rule and there’s not too much ambiguity to FAQ. What is covered by the FAQs is mostly reinforcing concepts from other rules that apply here.
Embark: If all models in a unit end their move within 3″ of a friendly transport in the Movement phase, they can embark within it. Remove the unit from the battlefield and place it to one side – it is now embarked inside the transport.
Embarked units cannot normally do anything or be affected in any way whilst they are embarked. Unless specifically stated, abilities that affect other units within a certain range have no effect whilst the unit that has the ability is embarked. [Updated in Core Rules FAQ Pg2]

So far so good, get to within 3” and hop inside. Simple enough. However the key thing to not here is that there’s some subtlety in these rules. You need to be able to move to the transport. This is clarified in the FAQ below.

Q: Can a unit that is within 1″ of the enemy and entirely within 3″ of a friendly Transport embark into that transport without having to move? For example, because they cannot Fly and would have to move through enemy models?
A: No. [Core Rules FAQ Pg11]

So if a model is pinned in combat or there are models between the and the Transport you can’t embark. If you have a way of ignoring them though, such as FLY, then you still do so. This serves mostly to prevent a transport from magically scooping up a unit that has been tied up in combat.

The other thing to note is the even if you can move in another phase, you can only Embark in the movement phase unless a rule specifically gives a unit an ability that ignores that.

Q: Can units embark inside a transport in a phase other than the Movement phase, such as when they are using the Fire and Fade Stratagem from Codex: Craftworlds, or when a unit performs a Soulburst action to move again?
A: No, unless the rule in question specifically states that the unit can embark inside a Transport. [Updated in Core Rules FAQ Pg12]

That covers Embarking day to day, there are some quirks with how all this interacts with other rules though which are covered later on.


Disembarking is also fairly straight forward for the average transport;

Disembark: Any unit that begins its Movement phase embarked within a transport can disembark before the transport moves. When a unit disembarks, set it up on the battlefield so that all of its models are within 3″ of the transport and not within 1″ of any enemy models – any disembarking model that cannot be set up in this way is slain.
Units that disembark can then act normally (move, shoot, charge, fight, etc.) during the remainder of their turn. Note though, that even if you don’t move disembarking units further in your Movement phase, they still count as having moved for any rules purposes, such as shooting Heavy weapons. [Core Rules Pg. 9]

What’s not 100% clear with the current set of FAQs though is if you can disembark through enemy models. The embarking FAQs establish that you can’t move through enemy models to do that without some sort of ability, such as FLY. There’s no equivalent FAQ for the opposite.

It’s still possible to block disembarking with models surrounding a transport though, it’s just not as simple as it appears on the surface.

Emergency Disembarking

Here’s where we get to the potentially easy to get wrong bits of these rules. In the actual rule book this really important section is just slotted between the Embarking and Disembark rules, it doesn’t even get it’s own heading! Here’s the rule;

If a transport is destroyed, any units embarked within it immediately disembark (see below) before the transport model is removed, but you must then roll one dice for each model you just set up on the battlefield. For each roll of 1, a model that disembarked (your choice) is slain. Units cannot declare a charge during the same turn that they disembarked from a destroyed transport. [[Core Rules Pg. 9 – Updated in Core Rules FAQ Pg. 2]

In a rule set that up til this point has been entirely about actions taken by Units and things happening one at a time this can so easily be done wrong.

Q: How do transports work with regards to disembarking units upon the transport’s destruction?
A: Disembarking from a destroyed transport operates as follows:
1. If the transport has the Explodes ability (or equivalent) roll to see if it explodes and resolve any resulting damage to nearby units.*

So first of all, explosions happen BEFORE the models get out. So units inside don’t take damage twice when emergency disembarking.

2. All models inside immediately disembark following the standard rules for disembarkation.

This bit is so often forgotten but it firmly establishes first of all the models need to be placed on the board as if they disembarked normally. It’s common to skip this step as it seems like a waste of time to place models on the board to then pick them back up immediately and If your transport has been killed out in the open then 99% of the time this isn’t going to make a difference. However if your transport is killed in combat, surrounded by enemy models. Then before you roll any dice you need to know how many can actually get out. Following the disembark rules any models that can’t fit within 3” of the transport but more than 1” from the enemy are lost. You only roll for those that can legally disembark.

3. Roll a number of D6 equal to the number of models disembarked in this fashion.

4. Each result of a 1 yields a slain model, and must be allocated to one of the models which disembarked; the controlling player may choose which model.

This I think is the bit so easily gotten wrong. As I alluded to almost every other rule in the game is about units, but these rules have you treat the models that come out of the transport together. So even if the transport was carrying 11 models, two units of 5 and a Character, if you can disembark them all you roll 11 dice and then you get to decide whilst models died. I’ve seen plenty of players “roll for the first unit”, “roll for the second”, “finally roll for the character”. That is incorrect, probably to prevent transports from having a 1 in 6 chance of killing any Characters or HQs that ride in them when destroyed. Losing a 6 wound HQ to a dice roll like that would easily be enough risk to never put one in a transport.

5. Remove the destroyed transport model.

And then finally remove the transport from the board.

* Note that if the transport does explode, units being transported are not affected as they are not yet on the battlefield. For example, a Razorback is transporting a Tactical Squad of five models and one Space Marine Captain when it is destroyed. The Razorback rolls a 6 for its Explodes ability, inflicting D3 mortal wounds on each unit within 6″. The six models inside now disembark, and six D6 are rolled. Two of the results are a 1, so two models are slain – the Space Marine player chooses two of the Space Marines from the Tactical Squad. The Razorback model is now removed from the battlefield.

So that covers the basics of transports but how does this all work in with other rules.

Rules Interactions

40k 8th edition is a game of exceptions and over-rides to the core rules. Some are obvious others are less so, lets cover a few key ones for Transports.

FLY and Measure to Hull – FLYing isn’t always free but can have perks

If your models FLY then they can embark whilst within 1” of the enemy and even through enemy models. The FAQ has established that much. What about FLYing transports though? These offer a pretty unique set of differences from the standard ground based transport.
First of all there’s how these units are measured to take into account. Plenty of FLYing transports have a version of the Hover Tank rule but not all of them are the same.

Impulsor – Space Marine – Hover Tank: Distances are always measured to and from this model’s hull.

The Impulsor version never has you measure to the base, doesn’t even mention there being one.

Falcon – Aeldari – Hover Tank: Distance and ranges are always measured to and from this model’s hull, even though it has a base.

The Falcon mentions having a base but tells you to ignore it and only measure to the hull. The “base” it comes with is the 60mm flying stem style one.

Raider – Drukhari – Hovering: Instead of measuring distance and ranges to and from this model’s base, measure to and from this model’s hull or base (whichever is closer).

Finally the Raider, which also comes with the 60mm flying stem but tells you to measure to hull or base, whichever is closer.

These differences have some obvious and some subtle effects. Firstly the range to disembark or embark in them can technically be affected by how high they are off the board, especially for the variant without any base to base measuring. If the Hull is 0.5” off the ground then to be within 3” you need to be a little closer than a top down view might at first make it appear. This same issue also leads to a potential “modelling for advantage” in an odd way. If you use one of the tallest flying stems available for your Falcon there could be plenty of sides or areas where it’s impossible to get a model to within 1”, effectively making them immune to combat.


The second main difference is when it comes to where models can embark from or disembark to that a standard “measure to base” transport might not allow. If on the ground floor of a ruin, most transports are tall enough to allow their contents to disembark upwards onto higher floors. This pretty much only works going upwards through, as you don’t have the height of the model disembarking to account for as you would going downwards even if the Transport can fly to an upper floor.

Assault Vehicle and Similar Rules – What can and can’t you do

At the time of writing the only vehicle with this ability is the Space Marine Impulsor, there are some ways to replicate it with combinations of other abilities though;

Assault Vehicle: After this model moves in your Movement phase, if this model did not Advance, any units embarked aboard it can disembark. Units that do so cannot be chosen to charge with that turn.

What does it do? It lets you ignore the limit on disembarking before a Transport moves so long as it didn’t advance. The models that disembark this way can move as normal but they then can’t charge that turn. This is only one variant of this type of ability though and they’re not all the same. Harlequins have access to the following Warlord Trait that can allow their Warlord model to disembark after the transport has moved without any limitations on its ability to charge that turn.

Soaring Spite Your Warlord can disembark from a TRANSPORT even after it has moved.


The many versions of “Open Topped”

Reader beware, past this point there is a bit of a mess. Readers expecting consistency and logic, be forewarned; you shall not find much of it here.

Stormlord – Imperial Guard
Extended Firing Deck: Up to 20 models being transported by a Stormlord can shoot in their Shooting phase, measuring and drawing line of sight from any point on the vehicle. Units that shoot in this manner count as having moved if they or the Stormlord moved in the preceding Movement phase.

So… this is… yeah…

What about other better versions of the Open Topped rule?

Venom – Aeldari
Open-topped: Models embarked on this model can attack in their Shooting phase. Measure the range and draw line of sight from any point on this model. When they do so, any restrictions or modifiers that apply to this model also apply to its passengers; for example, the passengers cannot shoot if this model has Fallen Back in the same turn, cannot shoot (except with Pistols) if this model is within 1″ of an enemy unit, and so on. Note that the passengers cannot shoot if this model Falls Back, even though the Venom itself can.

The venom is an odd transport, when shooting with the units inside it you measure range and check for LoS from the hull. However the Venom itself does not have any version of the “Hover Tank” rule so when measuring for it’s own shooting you have to measure from the 60mm transparent base it comes on.

Trukk – Orks
Open-topped: Models embarked on this model can attack in their Shooting phase. Measure the range and draw line of sight from any point on this model. When they do so, any restrictions or modifiers that apply to this model also apply to its passengers; for example, the passengers cannot shoot if this model Fell Back in the same turn, cannot shoot (except with Pistols) if this model is within 1″ of an enemy unit, and so on.

Lastly, some semantics about the “any restrictions and modifiers that apply” does not allow models inside the Transport to benefit from any Aura abilities, even if they affect the transport itself.

Q: If a transport with the Open-topped ability (e.g. a Trukk) is within range of an aura ability, are units that are embarked upon that transport affected by that ability?
A: No.

Before you assume that this makes Boyz in a Trukk king of avoiding enemy auras or abilities. Be aware that some abilities, plenty of the stealth ones still work;

Alpha Legion: Hidden in Plain Sight Your opponent must subtract 1 from hit rolls that target units with this trait if they are more than 12″ away.

This isn’t an aura, it affects attacks from more than 12” away rather than models within a certain range. Boyz in a Trukk can still be more than 12” away when you measure so they would be affected by this normally.


Special Transports

Space Marines: Drop Pod

Drop pods are an iconic Warhammer 40k unit and they get some unique rules too.

Drop Pod Assault: During deployment, you can set up this model, along with any units embarked aboard it, in orbit instead of setting it up on the battlefield. If you do, at the end of one of your Movement phases you can set up this model anywhere on the battlefield that is more than 9″ away from any enemy models. Any models embarked aboard it must immediately disembark, and must be set up more than 9″ away from any enemy models (if a model cannot be placed in this way, it is destroyed).

Matched Play: This model and any units embarked aboard it are exempt from the Tactical Reserves matched play rule, except that if it and any units embarked aboard it have not arrived on the battlefield by the end of the third battle round, they count as having been destroyed.

In true GW style they’re exempt from part of a rule (not a whole rule that would be too easy). Essentially they can deploy turn 1, the drop pod and it’s contents do not count towards the “half on board” aspect of the Tactical Reserves rule (for the whole rule see Chapter Approved 2019 Pg61) but they must come in before Turn 4 or they’re considered destroyed like other reserves. What about the models inside though, when they arrive do they count as reinforcements like a unit of teleporting Terminators? The short answer is no.

Q: Some rules – such as Early Warning Override in Codex: T’au Empire, the Ever Vigilant Stratagem in Codex: Adeptus Custodes, and the Auspex Scan Stratagem in Codex: Space Marines – allow units to shoot at enemy units that have just arrived on the battlefield as reinforcements, as if it were the Shooting phase.
If the unit arriving as reinforcements has another unit embarked inside it which must disembark after it has been set up (such as units embarked within a Drop Pod, or a Tyrannocyte), can the firing unit shoot at the unit as it disembarks?
A: No – though the unit can shoot at the Drop Pod/Tyrannocyte before the units inside disembark

The drop pod itself does, but the units inside do not they’ve just disembarked as if the Drop Pod was any other transport. They can’t make another move though because it’s the end of the movement phase, and they’ve used up all their movement getting onto the board and off the drop pod.

Necrons: Monoliths do not bring models in from Reserves

First let’s look at the Monolith’s ability;

Eternity Gate: When you set up this model, at the same time you can also set up any number of friendly <DYNASTY> INFANTRY units on their tomb world rather than setting them up on the battlefield. Before this model moves in your Movement phase, a single friendly <DYNASTY> unit that was set up on their tomb world can be transported onto the battlefield by the Monolith. Set up the unit so that it is wholly within 3″ of this model and more than 1″ from any enemy models; the unit that has just been set up counts as having disembarked from a transport for all rules purposes. If all <DYNASTY> Night Scythes and Monoliths from your army are destroyed, any friendly <DYNASTY> units still on their tomb world are considered to be slain.

So where’s the confusion here? They leave the Monolith as if they’ve disembarked from it and that should be the end of that right? The problem is that for the purposes of the Tactical Reserves rule they count as reinforcements.

Q: Are units that are set up on their tomb world using the Invasion Beams and Eternity Gate abilities considered to be on the battlefield for the purposes of the Tactical Reserves matched play rule?
A: No, they do not count as being set up on the battlefield and are considered to be reinforcements for the purposes of the Tactical Reserves rule.

It’s only for that rule though! Soon as they “disembark” they stop being reinforcements. They can’t be shot at using any abilities that allow you to shoot at units arriving from reinforcements such as the Auspex Scan Stratagem.

Astra Militarum: Valkyries

Another special case are imperial Valkryies, which can have models disembark whilst moving the model.

Grav-chute Insertion: Models may disembark from this vehicle at any point during its move, but if they do they cannot move further during this phase; if the Valkyrie moves 20″ or more, you must roll a D6 for each model disembarking. On a 1, that model is slain. Models that disembark in this manner must be set up more than 9″ from any enemy models.

This is pretty straight forward though, stop moving the model where you want the units inside to disembark. Effectively you then do an Emergency Disembark as normal except that rather than needing to 1″ away from the enemy you need to be 9″ away. Once you’ve completed that move the Valkryies model the rest of it’s movement. There’s one extra complication to this though, and it’s the fact that it can Hover.

Hover JetBefore 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 AirborneHard to Hit and Supersonic abilities until the beginning of your next Movement phase.

When in Hover Jet mode the model loses the Supersonic ability allowing it to turn mid move or even move in directions other than forwards. So you could legitimately move it forwards 10″ drop models off and the move backwards 10″ whilst in this mode.


I really hope that has helped to clear up Transports. As ever If you want your rules debate answered you can submit questions both on reddit, or via this form. Or drop us a note in the comments below or email us at