Warhammer Community 9th Edition Transcript Notes: Morale and Reserves

The Warhammer Community team dropped a large helping of information on Morale and Strategic Reserves today, with a new article on Warhammer Community as well as a discussion between Stu Black and Eddie Eccles on Warhammer TV. While we don’t publish all of these as posts, we transcribe them to use when we do our weekly round-up of rules. However they’re very popular and some news is so big that we don’t want to wait for the weekend to talk about it. Today is one of those days.

Strategic Reserves

A new addition to the game’s rules, Strategic Reserves add an extra tactical dimension to gameplay by giving any army an option to outflank units instead of deploying them normally (units that can teleport, tunnel, infiltrate, or otherwise deep strike can just do their regular thing – they aren’t affected by these rules).

Placing a unit into reserves costs CP based on the total power level of the units being placed into reserves. This is a mechanic that many faction players will be familiar with (cue Chaos Daemons players nodding along), but opens up new possibilities by giving some options to every faction and unit in the game.

In terms of when units arrive, that’s still up to the player, but when you bring the unit in will change how they can set up. You still get no reserves on turn 1, but if you set up on turn 2 you can set up anywhere wholly within 6″ of a battlefield edge that isn’t your enemy’s or in their deployment zone, and if you wait until turn 3 you can instead show up in the enemy deployment zone (though still not along their battlefield edge).

You still can’t set up within 9″ of any enemy models, and your units count as moving and can’t move, Advance, or Fall Back once they arrive. Still, it’s a powerful tool for armies that didn’t have a way to reliably deep strike or transport certain units and a good way to protect key units that need to close some distance. It’s also much more viable a tactic with the new smaller table size.

Also, note the following:

  • Aircraft that leave the table are automatically placed into Strategic Reserves.
  • If you set up within 1″ of your own table edge, you can set up within 9″ of enemy units, even directly within Engagment range. So if your opponent gets up in your face, you have the option to deploy a counter-assault right there, ready to charge shorter distances.

Notes: There are a few interesting things to note about these rules:

  • We don’t have any info on whether there’s a limit to the number of units. However, it’s likely there will be something in place to prevent a player from putting an entire army in reserves – either a rule that would cause them to lose the game or a cap on the amount of units that can be placed in Reserves. In 8th, the Tactical Reserves Matched Play rule prevented players from setting up more than half of their army’s value, in points, in Reserves, and that wouldn’t be unlikely to see here.
  • The CP cost is based on the combined power rating of all units in Reserves. This suggests that players aren’t making decisions about what to put in reserves one-at-a-time like they were in many missions in 8th edition and are instead doing it all at once.
  • This opens up options for a lot of units that were previously stuck walking across the table or had bad transport options, and probably has the consequence of making transports in 40k even less useful: After all, why spend 100+ points on a transport to move that unit across the table when you can spend the CP instead and have them outflank? It’ll be interesting to see how this tension gets resolved.



Discussed on stream, Morale sees some large changes as well. You’re still taking tests based on D6 + the number of models destroyed this turn, but now unmodified rolls of a 1 always succeed and if you fail the test by going over your Ld value, one model flees and you have to take Combat Attrition tests.

So as part of this, we’ve also been introduced to a new mechanic, Combat Attrition. When you take a Combat Attrition test, you roll a D6 for each model in the unit and on a 1, a model flees. You get -1 to these tests if the unit is below half strength.

Notes: This has a few major impacts. The first is that morale matters a little bit more for smaller units, who are now in danger of losing more models to combat attrition, though it’s still unlikely that a 5-model squad of space marines is going to fail a morale test without significant negative modifiers or casualties to the point that Combat Attrition tests won’t be necessary. It also makes morale less brutal for large units – first off, you have a 1 in 6 chance (about 17%) of automatically passing, and even after that your chances of losing more than one model are 1 in 6 for each model left in the unit.

To put this into perspective, let’s say I was playing with a unit of 30 Chaos Cultists – Ld 6 with the champion. I lose 10 of them to shooting (Let’s assume I have no CP left for this, so Insane Bravery doesn’t apply). In 8th edition, I’m guaranteed to fail the morale test because 1+10 is more than 6, so any way you slice it I’m about to lose another D6+4 models from the 20 I have left, for an average of 7.5 more models lost. With the new rules, I have a 1 in 6 chance of not losing any, but if I fail, I lose 1 + (1/6) * (20), which averages out to about 3-4 more models, depending on how bad my luck is. That’s way better, and gives me an incentive to still take larger units despite the danger they’ll be in from Blast weapons.

On the other hand, if I had a unit of 10 intercessors (Ld 8 with veteran sergeant) that loses 3 models and fails its morale test (even after re-roll) by 1, the chances are good that I’m going to be able to take out a second model from Combat Attrition, whereas before a 9 was only going to get me 1 model. So the new rules likely put some pressure on squads to either be minimum-sized or maximum-sized, depending on how good and how common Blast weapons are.

This also means that you can no longer guarantee a unit will be wiped out due to morale. Even if it fails its test, a unit with 2 models left has a very good chance (83%) of surviving its Combat Attrition test with one model left. On the flip side, this can also help units stay in combat as their numbers dwindle. It’s probably very good for large units of Chaos Possessed, who are not immune to morale but can come in units of 20 models.

Something we haven’t seen yet but expect to as early as Indomitus are abilities that modify the Combat Attrition rolls. These will be much more powerful than the current abilities we see in 8th; while abilities to force the test are helpful, they’ll only be good if you can combine them with abilities that also make models more likely to die to Combat Attrition.


Final Thoughts

These are, on the whole, very good changes. The Strategic Reserves rules give slower armies or armies with bad transports a bunch of new options for getting around, and also give players a way to protect key units on turn 1 that otherwise would have had to sit out in the open. Paying 3 CP to put Mortarion or Magnus in Reserves is a big price, but ensuring they’ll absolutely be around to throw out their awesome psychic powers and act on turn 2 may be a valuable trade-off given that they can’t hide behind ruins without being completely blocked from sight (thanks to having 18+ Wounds).

Morale is an area where we’re less clear. We like the changes on the whole, but we’re not entirely sure yet whether they make morale more or less relevant in 9th edition than it was in 8th. Even in our example above, the marine Intercessors failing a morale test and triggering Combat Attrition is a 1/36 chance of happening, so it’s not something I suspect Marine squads will spend much time worrying about unless you’re able to stack multiple Leadership debuffs on them. Still, we’re interested to see where things go and hoping that this opens up the designers to be more liberal with morale modifiers and making the mechanic matter more in games.

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