What the New 40k Changes Mean for Casual Players

We’ve written a lot of words over the last few days about the massive number of FAQs and points changes and what they mean, and as usual our content tends to take a more competitively focused view of things. Part of that is because small tweaks tend to mean more in competitive play, and part of it is that competitive players tend to care more and spend more time reading articles on sites like Goonhammer.com. 

But many of us are also narrative and casual players, and we’re always mindful of the gaps that can exist between competitive and more casual levels of play. So if you’re more of a casual player, getting a few games a year with friends over beers, wondering what these changes mean for you well, we’ve got you covered. Here are the big things.


If you’ve never played a game of 9th edition…

Welcome! This isn’t as rare as you might think – although we’re nearing what looks like a light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic, many people are still staying home and have yet to get in their first games of 9th edition. For many casual players, the first year of 9th edition has nearly come and gone without them playing so much as a single game! 

If you’re worried about having missed too much – don’t be. This latest round of FAQs primarily smoothed and simplified many of 9th edition’s most prickly issues, and the bulk of the rules in the 9th edition FAQ are addendums to the Rare Rules section at the back of the rulebook, which addresses particular quirks in the game’s ruleset that arise from unit abilities and other interesting interactions. If you’re coming on from 8th edition, give the new 9th edition rulebook a read, then hit up the FAQ for the Rare Rules and your faction’s FAQ document and you should be fine.

And if you’ve only played a game or two, then do the same and jump right back in. None of these changes are seismic; while they’re important, they don’t come up in every game and in many cases just bring the wording in-line with what players likely already found to be the intuitive way of doing things to begin with.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

If you use Power Ratings: They updated the power ratings doc

If points aren’t your thing and you’re more of a power ratings group then something to be mindful of is that with new point changes, we’ve also got a new update to Power Ratings. Generally speaking, power ratings and points have a conversion rate of around 1 PR = 20 points, so while some of the point changes haven’t affected power ratings, some of the bigger changes may have affected power ratings. The Power Ratings update doc frustratingly doesn’t list the changes, so just be sure you’re using the latest version when you build an army:


If you use Points: Some points changed

Same deal as above – some of the points changed. Make sure you’re using the latest version of the Munitorum Field Manual when you build your armies.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Combat got Simpler

If our recent diagrams and a lot of the to do about combat and fight first/last effects had your head spinning, then good news – combat got quite a bit simpler with the new FAQs and the designer’s commentary. If you found thinking about all the different wordings of “fights last” or “isn’t eligible to fight until” annoying to track, then note that now units fall into three categories when the fighting starts:

  • Fights first
  • Fights normally
  • Fights last

Charging and having a fights first ability puts you in the first group, being affected by a fights last or ‘not eligible’ rule puts you in the last group. Units in groups fight in alternating order.

All fights first and fights last abilities now just cancel each other out regardless of how many you have stacked on the same unit. 

This helpful chart covers almost all the Fight Phase order rules, it’s really that simple now honest. The only exception we know of so far is Death Guard’s Revolting Stench Vats which rather than being a Fight Last effect they cause models in range to not be able to use any Fight First rules or even count as having charged at all. 


Rules for Remain Stationary got Clarified

9th edition introduced multiple different movement types to the game for additional clarity, one of which was Remain Stationary – effectively that your unit didn’t move. This status seems simple but is actually quite complex, especially since it’s used in some special rules to ignore the effects of moving. There’s now an 8-point rare rule breakdown of exactly what “rules that count as remaining stationary” actually entail, which picks up all the edge cases this introduced – most critically, it means that if you Fall Back and then count as Remaining Stationary you can shoot, boosting the power of Mont’ka specifically. It also has important carve-outs for units arriving from reinforcements (they simply don’t count as applying), for transports (you can’t disembark after moving, even if the transport counts as being stationary), and for actions (you can’t do an action after Advancing or Falling Back even if you count as being stationary).

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Deployment was clarified

Something that was an issue in every type of mission (Open Hostility/War, Eternal War, Matched Play, and Crusade) was the ambiguity around when “Deployment” was – missions have a “Declare Reserves and Transports” step and a “Deploy Armies” step, but no actual “Deployment” step, which could lead to confusion with abilities like Combat Squads and Teleportarium that happened “During Deployment.” The new FAQ now clears up when Deployment is and when these abilities are used. Basically things that happen at the start of deployment happen during the declare transports and reserves step, while things that happen During deployment will likely happen during the “Deploy Armies” step.

Difficult Terrain changed

Difficult terrain rules changed. The difference is subtle, but important – now Difficult terrain modifies your Movement characteristic and charge rolls.. This means that abilities like the Death Guard’s Inexorable Advance and the Adeptus Mechanicus’ Optimised Gait allow units to ignore the effects of walking over forests, craters, and other difficult terrain.

Moved means Moved

Any time a rule has come up requiring you to move a particular distance to receive a benefit, there have been players arguing that you can “count as” moving by staying stationary – the argument being that your bikers simply rode in a complete circle, or back and forth along a line, for sufficient distance to count as having moved. The rules were silent on whether this counted, but we are glad to report this fucking bullshit has now been firmly put to bed – your unit has to actually move as far as the rule says, and doughnuts don’t count. The main thing affected here is the Death on the Wind secondary for Ravenwing, as the units now have to actually move to count as scoring it.

If You Play with the GT Missions: Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachments Are Easier to Take

We realize that the GT Missions are a turn-off to many casual players but hear us out: The new change to the 2021 GT missions pack now makes it so that if you take a Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachment and the unit in the detachment shares a faction keyword with your army’s Warlord that isn’t IMPERIUM, CHAOS, AELDARI, TYRANIDS, or YNNARI, then the Command Benefits for that Detachment becomes “+2 Command Points.” This is a brilliant change that makes taking units like Monoliths, Stompas, Stormsurges, Astreuses, Lords of Skulls, and Wraithknights much more palatable, since they’ll only cost you 1 CP to field instead of 3. 

The reason we bring this up is that this really feels like it should be a change to the game’s rules and not just to the GT missions, so we’d encourage you to consider either playing with GT missions rules for this rule or talking to your playgroup about adding the rule for everyone regardless of mission.

Drukhari got some nerfs, but are still good

We’re looking to avoid balance updates in this article but generally Drukhari got a few key nerfs that make them a little less insane. If you’ve been sick of seeing “that guy” running his brand new Drukhari army or you’re tired of people assuming you’re a jerk because you’re playing the army you’ve loved for 20 years and they’ve become really good, then hopefully some of that ire will subside and you can feel better about fielding them and playing against them. They’re still very, very good, mind – just not as crazy good as they were before.

They keep changing the rules in my books!

If you’re frustrated that the books you paid so much money for seem less valid than they used to be – we hear you. One of the challenges of printing rulebooks is that if you have to make changes later, those books won’t change. Games Workshop has to balance the need to keep print materials relevant against the need to make Warhammer 40,000 the best game possible. Something they’ve done to keep books relevant is only change the datasheets and unit rules when absolutely necessary or to fix an error – Datasheets for units typically do not change until a new codex is released or a new model comes out for a unit. Instead, GW focuses on changing points values and occasionally Power Ratings, both of which are provided free online to players. So just because the FAQs changed things doesn’t mean your expensive codex is invalid! It just means you’ll likely have to use the updated points values, or build your army in an app.


It’s a Good Time to Jump Back In

Whether you’re coming back to the game with fresh eyes or have kept your competitive edge sharp over the last few months, there’s plenty to like about this round of FAQs, which make 9.1th edition the best edition of Warhammer 40k yet. If you’ve been waiting for a reason to get back out and play some games (and you’re vaccinated and can do so responsibly), now’s the time.

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note at contact@goonhammer.com.