Ruleshammer: Guide to Terrain in 9th

An article by    Gaming Ruleshammer Warhammer 40k        0

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. At the halfway point, today one of the biggest articles yet as Rob delves into the Terrain rules.

Terrain has gotten a lot more nuanced in 9th edition, most of it for the better though it’s not without it’s quirks.
Updated based on FAQ v1.1 2020/08/13

Terrain Categories

In 9th every piece of terrain must be assigned one of four categories.

Hills

The Hills Terrain Category defines them as not being terrain features. They are considered part of the surface of the board. They block LoS in the usual way if your models are behind them but they gain no terrain traits and models on top of them do not typically receive any additional benefits. Abilities such as the Raven Guard chapter tactic that requires the unit to be on a terrain piece would not be triggered by being on a hill, as they are not considered to be terrain pieces even if they are free standing rather than sculpted into the board.

Obstacles

Obstacles are the smaller solid pieces of terrain like Statues, Barricades, Ruined Walls that you models have to move over or around. Models receive benefits of cover (if there are any for that terrain piece) whilst within 3” of the Obstacle terrain and if they have the INFANTRY, BEAST or SWARM keywords.

What’s interesting about this though is that Obstacles on their own do not define a “benefit of cover”, so if the obstacle lacks a cover Terrain Trait then it’s entirely possible whilst near them to “have the benefit of cover” and that benefit be nothing at all. Also obstacles only provide cover to Infantry, Swarm and Beasts whilst within 3” of the obstacle,

…unless, when you resolve an attack that target’s a models unit, you can draw straight lines, 1mm in thickness, to every part of a models base from a single point on the attacking model’s base (or hull) without any of those lines passing over or through any part of the terrain feature. [Obstacles – Book Pg260]

The Dense Cover Terrain trait works in a very specific way with this terrain category, which is covered later on in this article.

Area Terrain

What is likely the most common type of terrain, area terrain is any terrain that covers an area. Sometimes this will be denoted by a base but it might not be or the base might be a beautifully sculpted terrain piece in it’s own right. It’s important to agree on the boundary before the game starts.

Here’s a very important part of Area Terrain, Infantry, Beast and Swarm units receive the benefits of cover from Area Terrain whilst they are within them. It’s taken a lot of back and forth at Goonhammer HQ but the “best” interpretation we have of this, that causes most of 40k’s terrain traits to work as expected is that these unit types always gain the benefit of whatever cover traits the terrain has whilst they are within, regardless of the usual check for them.

Similar to obstacles, whilst Area Terrain features give units within or partially on them the benefit of cover they  do not actually define an actual benefit.

Buildings

Buildings are still typically units with the Fortification Battlefield role and the BUILDING Keyword. [Book pg261]

Like Hills Buildings are not considered to be Terrain Pieces, they are instead considered to be units. They follow the usual rules for Line of Sight when models are shooting around them. This is pretty much exactly as it was in 8th but it’s now a more defined part of the rules.

Terrain Traits

Before we look at the Terrain Traits I want to make a quick note about ignoring cover weapons, they are covered by the new rule books Appendix in the new “Rare Rules” section (not that they’re especially rare). We’re going to cover all of the Rules in that section next week, but cover is in there and it’s handled well in my opinion.

Moving on though, the new terrain traits. We’ll start with the two that are in my opinion going to be some of the most significant changes to 9th.

FAQ Updates 1.1

The FAQ confirms the majority of my 1.0 diagrams were correct. So we’re pretty happy. Here’s the text of the FAQ text. Each section below has been updated.

OBSCURING AND DENSE COVER
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). Also, in the same way that Obscuring terrain ‘blocks’ visibility when it is in between the firing model and its intended target, Dense Cover terrain imposes a hit penalty whenever it is between the firing model and its intended target (with the noted exceptions). It is not required for a unit to be fulfilling the criteria of ‘gaining the benefits of cover’, as described for Obstacles and Area Terrain, for this penalty to hit rolls to apply (but also note that any rule that ignores the benefits of cover, or that ignores the benefits of cover that impose a penalty on hit rolls, would still ignore that penalty).

Page 263 – Obscuring, second paragraph, first sentence
Change this sentence to read: ‘Models that are on or within terrain feature can see, and can be seen and targeted normally.’

Page 263 – Heavy Cover
Change this paragraph to read: ‘When an attack made with a melee weapon wounds a model that is receiving the benefits of cover from this terrain feature, add 1 to the saving throw made against that attack unless the model that the attack is allocated to made a charge move this turn (invulnerable saving throws are not affected).

Dense Cover – Affects Hit Rolls [Updated 1.1]

Most of Dense Cover was included in a preview, along with its bullet points.

 

Source: Warhammer Community

 

There is an extra bit missing though that helps make the bullet points make sense.

Models do not suffer this penalty to their hit rolls when making an attack with a ranged weapon that targets an AIRCRAFT unit, or a unit that includes any models with a Wounds (W) characteristic of 18 or more, even if this terrain feature is between it and the firing model (note that the reverse is not true). [Book pg262]

So what does Dense cover do? Well the scenario it’s mostly design to create is like this.

 

 

However it has that line about drawing lines an entire models base (or hull) so it also conveys cover in situations like this.

FAQ 1.1 has clarified that Dense Cover must be between the firer and the target for the benefit to apply. The diagrams below have been updated to reflect this.

However that’s when the models are not within the terrain, and we’re using Dense Cover’s rule on it’s own to determine if any benefit of cover is gained. When models are within Area Terrain they gain the benefit of cover if they are INFANTRY, SWARM or BEAST or whilst the terrain piece is still between them and the firing models.

This lovely diagram is still potentially contestable though, see our break down of why here https://www.goonhammer.com/goonhammer-hot-take-core-book-faq-round-2/

Some of The Chirurgeon’s best work.

Obscuring – Affects Line Of Sight [Updated 1.1]

Obscuring
If this terrain feature is at least 5″ in height, then models cannot see through or over this terrain feature. This means that one model is not visible to another if you cannot draw a straight line, 1mm in thickness, between them without it passing through or over any part of this terrain feature. The height of the terrain feature is measured from the highest point on that terrain feature.
Models that are on or within terrain feature can see, and can be seen and targeted normally. AIRCRAFT models, and models with a Wounds (W) characteristic of 18 or more, are visible can can be targeted even if this terrain feature is in-between it and the firing model. [Core Rules Pg263 with FAQ update]

For completeness here’s the relevant part addressing the “are visible” confusion as well from FAQ 1.1.

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)

These changes drasticly improve on the confusion of the Obscuring rule. no longer do we need to differentiate between “can be seen” and “are visible” though it’s a shame that they left the wording of the rule as it was rather than changing it to reflect this intention.

Models that are on within this Terrain feature can see and be seen and targeted normally. [Book pg263]

This means you use the normal Line of Sight rules, the models you target need to be visible through windows or gaps as this is what you do “normally”.

AIRCRAFT models, and models with a Wound Characteristic (W) of 18 or more, are visible and can be targeted even if this terrain feature is in-between it and the firing model (note that the reverse is not true). [Book pg263]

Here “are visible” has been clarified by FAQ 1.1 to mean that even if this terrain is between firing model and target, these larger models “are visible” if the terrain allows you to see them using the normal line of sight rules. Personally I’d like this language changed a little to be 100% clear without need for reading a seperate FAQ on the rule but this for the best.

So let’s look at some practical examples of how obscuring changes the battlefield.

The table is only a summary by unit, some models might still not be able to see and you need to check for each model.

Defensible – Affects Overwatch Or Combat Hit Rolls

Defensible terrain allows INFANTRY units either on or in Area Terrain, or INFANTRY within 3” of an Obstacle (that at least partially hides every model in the unit) to either Hold Steady or can be Set to Defend. They can not do either whilst within Engagement Range of enemy models though.

 

 

Defence Line – Affects Charge and Fight Range

Similar to the barricades rule from 8th, but tidied up a bit. Units within 1” of this terrain feature can be charged so long as the charging unit ends their move touching the terrain piece and within 2” of the target unit, and units can be selected to fight and models make melee attacks at a range of 2″ rather than 1″ if their target is on the far side of the terrain.

Breachable – Affects Movement

The old move through Ruin Walls rule from 8th but now it’s own thing. INFANTRY, BEAST and SWARM units can move through walls, girders etc without impediment. Having this separate from Ruins is one of my favourite changes in 9th because it allows you to decide with your opponent which Ruins are open and exploitable and which terrain pieces are a little less “Ruined” and that models can’t enter. Not applying this trait to a Ruins with four intact walls and a ceiling removes the entire concept of “enclosed ruins” from the game.

 

 

Difficult Ground – Affects Movement

This trait takes the -2” to movement that Forests and Craters had and applies it to units making Normal Moves, Advances, Falling Back or Charge Moves where any of their models move over the terrain. That’s a pretty big change, as it used to only apply to charges, and it’s important to note that the whole unit gets slowed down even if only one model touched the terrain. Heroic Intervention, Pile In or Consolidate moves are safe, however!

Light Cover – Cover Benefit

Makes the benefit of cover for a terrain feature “add 1 to save throws against ranged weapons (this does not affect invulnerable saves).” Essentially this is just the normal cover from 8th edition.

Heavy Cover – Cover Benefit [Updated 1.1]

Heavy Cover
When an attack made with a melee weapon wounds a model that is receiving the benefits of cover from this terrain feature, add 1 to the saving throw made against that attack unless the model that the attack is allocated to made a charge move this turn (invulnerable saving throws are not affected).

This trait provides a cover bonus to units that didn’t charge this turn, turning these terrain pieces into a strong position from which to take an enemy charge.

Unstable Position – Affects Movement

Models cannot be set up or end a move on top of this terrain feature (they can move up, over and down this terrain feature, but they cannot end a move on top of it). [Book pg263]

This is an interesting one, on the one hand it could be used on some terrain to prevent someone from balancing a sniper on a spire, or from balancing a Repulsor on a 0.5” wide ledge. The issue that the latter idea has though is that if the ledge you wanted to keep Repulsors off was closer to 1.5” then it’d be very harsh to rule such a space off from any and all models. It’s also not clear from the wording of this rule if it includes placing models on middle floors.

 

Exposed Position – Cover Disabler

This trait prevents models from gaining any benefit of cover whilst on top of the terrain feature. Cover can still be gained by being “behind” it. Again “on top” is not defined but the suggested types of terrain for this trait are things like storage containers which often have several different heights. I would recommend just agreeing with your opponent to treat each container separately so that they all have an “on top” of their own

Scaleable – Affects Movement

This trait has two distinct parts. The first part allows units to be setup or end moves on top of these terrain pieces.

Only INFANTRY, SWARM and BEAST models, and models that can FLY, to be set up or end a move on top of an Obstacles terrain feature with this trait. Only INFANTRY, BEASTS and SWARM, and models than can FLY, can be set up or end their move on the upper floors of an Area Terrain Feature with this trait (other models can be setup or end a move on the ground floor). [Book pg263]

The second part is actually a terrain rule that is now separated from the Breachable rule we covered earlier. That rules was about vertical barriers such as walls, pillars, or trees. The scaleable trait allows movement through horizontal barriers like floors, ceilings or gantrees.

This is quite significant as it really allows for some terrain feature customisation that 8th never allowed for. Industrial terrain such as this.

 

Credit: Games Workshop

By giving it the Scaleable trait but not the Breachable trait you allow models to move through the gantrees but not through the solid walls or girders (which they can quite easily move around anyway). This prevents issues such as “can my model go inside this terrain”.

Inspiring – Leadership Booster

The last type of terrain gives a +1 leadership (ld) to any units within 6”. It can also be given a Faction keywords which limit the effect to units that share that faction keyword. This is similar the Imperial Statue rules from 8th but allows for other factions to have their own equivalents.

Wings: Delighted to see that there is finally rules support for elegant, sophisticated elf statues and not just gaudy eagle-heavy monuments to some basically dead guy.

Terrain Conclusions [Updated 1.1]

This first round of FAQs, whilst it did stumble out of the gate a little with a lot of these issues taking the second pass to fix really has tightened up an already pretty good set of terrain rules. Obscuring and Dense are far easier to understand now and should lead to the desired “terrain is another player” level of impact the teasers were talking about. The only issue still outstanding I’ve been made aware of is whether or now touching a piece of terrain, as in model against a wall. Counts as “on or within” the terrain, I think “within” has a pretty clear definition in 9th and a model outside a ruin doesn’t meet that definition. “On” is a little more debatable, though I personally don’t think they are; especially if the footprint being used is the inner edge of the wall. My advice is to make this part of the pregame discussion so that before any dice are thrown both players know exactly what to expect, if it’s during an event check the event pack or ask a TO.

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.

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.