Terrain Rules and Line of Sight

More info on terrain rules in 9th ed 40k from the Warhammer-community team!

So, we’ve told you how Vehicles and big Monsters are going to be even more frightening in the new edition, and how Blast weapons will offer many weapons a formidable advantage against more numerous enemies, but what about their would-be victims? Well, in line with feedback from our elite team of playtesters and you, the Warhammer 40,000 community, the terrain rules have undergone a radical overhaul, aimed at providing a more balanced and immersive gaming experience. Here’s the low-down on some of the key changes…

Terrain Categories

All terrain types now fit into one of four categories – Hill, Obstacles, Area Terrain and Buildings. How units interact with them depends not just on the nature of the terrain itself, but on the unit’s own size and what type of unit they are.

For example, Hills are essentially a part of the battlefield for all intents and purposes, so are treated as open ground and offer no form of protection. Obstacles, on the other hand, are a footslogger’s best friend, as they offer the benefit of cover (which, for the most part, means +1 to your saving throws against ranged weapons) to Infantry, Beast or Swarm units if the obstacle is in the way of the firing unit.

Terrain Traits

When setting up a battlefield, you and your opponent(s) decide which terrain traits will be applied to each piece of scenery. The traits are designed to be stackable, so a single terrain piece can actually be given as many different traits as you wish. For example, you may decide to count a bunker as both Light Cover AND Heavy Cover, offering the benefits of cover at every range.

You can pick traits that will have more specific effects on the game, clarifying details such as whether or not the terrain is Scalable, Breachable or even Unstable. One of the real game changers is the Obscuring trait – not only does it offer an area of the battlefield that blocks line of sight, but the largest models can still be targeted! After all, an Imperial Knight towers over all but the largest buildings, making its bulky carapace an easy target, yet it would be all but impossible for its guns to match the same firing angles in return.

Another important point to note is that, even though Obscuring terrain blocks line of sight from one side to the other, a unit that’s INSIDE the terrain can still be freely targeted (though they will receive the benefit of cover if the terrain also has the Light Cover trait) and can give fire in return. However, the days of drawing line of sight through a gap in the wall and three consecutive windows to a unit on the opposite side of a huge building are over!

To make life easy, the Warhammer 40,000 Core Book includes some handy guidelines for which terrain traits to apply to the most common pieces of terrain.

At the end of the terrain section, there are a number of example battlefields presented, each explaining the thought processes behind the terrain selection and their positioning. This is really useful advice, as getting the quantity and density of terrain right is a key factor in playing a balanced game of Warhammer 40,000 – after all, too little terrain and shooting armies will have a massive advantage, too much and melee armies will likely dominate.

A Word on Battlefield Sizes…

A number of you have been getting in touch regarding the minimum size battlefield measurements we introduced in last week’s article. We’re happy to confirm that, yes, you can still use your 6′x4′ (or larger) gaming tables, be they gorgeously detailed Realm of Battle boards or lovingly created battlefields of your own design.

The minimum size battlefield guidelines for Combat Patrol, Incursion, Strike Force and Onslaught battles are just that – minimum sizes. They’ve been specifically designed to make the game more accessible and compact at smaller sizes (and fit on most dining room tables), but they can just as easily be played on larger battlefields as you see fit. The minimum sizes also ensure that armies in bigger games won’t be cramped on a battlefield that’s too small for them, so will still have plenty of room to manoeuvre.

So, that’s the scoop on new terrain rules, and tomorrow, we’ll be discussing units that casually soar straight over it – Flyers! Until then, let us know your thoughts on the future of terrain on the Warhammer 40,000 Facebook page.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

44 Responses to “Terrain Rules and Line of Sight”

  1. JimV June 11, 2020 8:14 am #

    If I read this right, anything with 18W or more can always be targeted no matter where it is? Or does true LOS still apply in those cases, the rule seems to indicate that if it has 18W or more, it can be seen even if it is completely out of LOS. Or it seems to indicate that obscuring terrain can’t block these models, but any other non obscuring terrain would still use True LOS.

    It’s kind of poorly worded as usual

    • KingAceNumber1 June 11, 2020 8:39 am #

      I read it as W18+ can be targeted through obscuring terrain by the default rules of TLoS, but must apply the obscuring rules to anything they themselves target.

      • JimV June 11, 2020 8:48 am #

        Yeah but it doesnt say that, even if it’s a 20″ wall, if it has the obscuring rule you cant hide anything 18W or higher behind it, units see right through at these. if it doesnt have the obscuring rule then TLOS applies so it could not be seen.

        • David June 11, 2020 9:19 am #

          Obscure doesn’t give you LOS to stuff you can’t see. It hides stuff you CAN see but through windows or over the top of it.

          • JimV June 11, 2020 9:29 am

            Actually that’s exactly what it says.

            “Aircraft Models, and models with 18 wounds or more ARE VISIBLE and CAN BE TARGETED even if this terrain is inbetween it and the firing model” Seems super cut and dry.

            If a 18W model is behind something that is obscuring, even if it is completely out of LOS, it is still VISIBLE AND CAN BE TARGETED

          • Pyrothem June 11, 2020 10:48 am

            I was really hoping to see the Monlith back on the table again but this is not a good sign for that.

  2. jc June 11, 2020 8:40 am #

    There is also an implication that a unit on terrain would be targetable no matter what, even if the terrain itself is blocking LOS.

    I’m totally okay with this because arguing about LOS is not fun, but its a big change?

    It would make sense though because if there was any OTHER obscuring terrain in the way of the firer then suddenly the unit is untargetable again, so reducing things to a more binary decision is great and very speedy.

    • assistantref June 11, 2020 11:35 am #

      It’s a massive change, and a bignerf to melee armies vis a vis the current ITC rules.

      In the current rules, melee infantry can hang out inside a ruin, and can’t be shot. Now, they have to be 1mm behind the back border of the ruin, or else they can be shot off the table with only a +1 cover save bonus. This means you probably lose at least 4″ of potential threat range, maybe more, if what you’re trying to hide behind is a “ruin” instead of just a “wall.”

      It also raises all sorts of weird questions about where the borders of the ruin end. If you have a L ruin in the middle, are units an inch behind the front wall “in” the ruin, or are they “behind” the ruin? I.e. is the ruin a rectangle, or is it a very thin L and you’re only “inside” the ruin if you’re actually physically on the wall? This gets even more confusing if you have three-walled ruins.

  3. Niall Duffield June 11, 2020 8:48 am #

    So, with the clear statement that the minimum table sizes are the “minimum,” will ITC and Nova tournaments still insist on downgrading from the 6’x4′ tables to the smaller (and arguably cramped) battle mats?

    • Reecius June 11, 2020 11:28 am #

      Anyone is free to play on the table size they want to, and as we have told other TOs they are free to use what they have and be an official ITC event to avoid any further investment.

      We are going with the new size as that is what we feel is going to provide the best play experience for 9th and I would guess it is what we will see at official GW events, etc.

      If you want to continue to play on a 4×6′, by all means, as the article states, you are free to do so =)

  4. Reecius June 11, 2020 8:50 am #

    Just bear in mind gang, there is more to be seen on this topic.

    • jc June 11, 2020 8:59 am #

      But we want it now! Besides now people can get their doom and gloom on!

      Personally I hope this implies more of an end to TLOS entirely. If you are on terrain you can shoot/get shot at no matter what but you get cover, if you are behind it you are blocked unless you are big. Done.

      Anything to reduce in game arguing and the 1 hour of deploying models ever so precisely so they dont get seen by X should go away.

      I also love the idea of these big obscuring terrain blocking chunks of the board behind them because suddenly it makes movement much more important. Melee armies get a boost BUT so too do flimsy units because they can go on “heavy” terrain.

    • JimV June 11, 2020 9:00 am #

      And thus the inherent flaws with these slow drips, they really should reveal the whole picture/release sections of the rules. It just causes so much Chaos with1/8th the rules.

      • JimV June 11, 2020 9:30 am #

        I understand that for codex’s etc, but given that the main 40k rules will be FREE and given how complicated and big they are I see no harm in releasing sections of the rules slowly so we can absorb them bit by bit. Rather than small parts of sections out of contect.

        • Reecius June 11, 2020 9:42 am #

          I do not disagree with you. However, I don’t make these decisions, I only occasionally write for the Community page.

        • JimV June 11, 2020 9:52 am #

          I know buddy haha I don’t hold you responsible for all the evils in the world, I just come to you to complain 😀

      • Tyler Bortel June 11, 2020 9:32 am #

        Idk man. As much as I hate the slow drip, if the goal is get everyone talking about 9th and feverishly invested in a game that doesn’t come out for another month and a half, it’s working. I imagine GW sees this as an absolute win.

        • Reecius June 11, 2020 9:43 am #

          That is true in that context, haha. Fair point. But, it would be nice to get a lot of chatter and have it be generally positive.

      • Reecius June 11, 2020 10:46 am #

        It can be frustrating at times to get the information slowly, I understand that. But hopefully what we do get stirs up some fun conversation.

    • Mathieu June 11, 2020 10:58 am #

      I will not lie… This article was not really good at building any sort of hype. It’s creating more confusion than anything else to be fair.

      Stating that being in an “Obscured” piece of terrain, you can be seen and targeted freely, is like saying that you can draw line of sight through ruins “early 8th ed” style.

      I know we don’t have the complete picture yet, but it’s not helping us either by giving so little tidbits.

      The way you interact with a piece of terrain can change depending on the size of the unit ? Ok, cool. But how does that change ? What is the threshold ? Unit of less than 10 models ? More than 15 ? 30 ? What does it give ?

      I hope they go back to this tomorrow instead of flyers, because it deserves a lot more coverage.

      And I agree taht the last part is a kick in the n**s for the playtesters who are vocal about the changes… I know they want to be reassuring people that they can play on whatever size they want, and still keep selling those Realm of Battle boards of theirs. But whatever… seeing how the game was handled back then, my money is on playtesters’ feel on how to play the game rather than GW at this point. If you (Not only FLG, but other vocal people with a “face” among the community) states that it’s been designed to be played on 44*60, than 44*60 it is.

  5. Paul Winters June 11, 2020 9:17 am #

    Shame they didn’t preview the terrain rules that are supposed to make melee better or act as a counter to “blast” weapons.

    Also slightly bad feels that Chaos Daemons are going to have limited terrain interactability (at least based on this preview) again.

    • Reecius June 11, 2020 11:28 am #

      There’s more to see. I think the terrain rules for 9th are excellent, personally.

  6. Tyler Bortel June 11, 2020 9:30 am #

    Wait. So I can be seen if I’m in the ruin, but the moment I take a step backward off the base I’m blocked? Or are we no longer counting the base as part of the L? I’m very confused…

    • JimV June 11, 2020 9:31 am #

      You are correct, ruins/obscuring pieces block line of site through them but not into them. For models inside True LOS would still apply.

  7. NinetyNineNo June 11, 2020 10:09 am #

    I’m confused — does TLOS still apply outside of Obscured rules? Like sure, you can shoot Knights through windows with the Obscured wording, but can you shoot them through a solid opaque wall as well?

    • Reecius June 11, 2020 11:34 am #

      Just remember, Obscuring is just one of the terrain traits that is available, and as they mention in the article, you assign them to terrain pieces (and multiples of them can be assigned to the same piece). I know it’s hard but try not to read too much into it at this stage as you don’t have the full picture yet.

  8. assistantref June 11, 2020 10:26 am #

    Reece – can you provide any insight on why the self-proclaimed “biggest change in 9th” appears to be completely optional, with no mechanism for resolving disputes as to how much terrain and what keywords it should have other than “agree with your opponent before the game, and here’s a totally optional suggested guideline?”

    Now most 40k players are gentlemen who will be able to work it out, but it just seems weird. It’s like saying: “agree with your opponent what roll on a D6 you need to wound your target. Here’s a suggestion, but it’s totally optional!”

    Everything is always subject to modification in 40k based on agreement, but we still have rules to provide a framework when agreement can’t be reached, and to avoid needless disputes. This seems like it just creates a potential flashpoint at the start of every single game that needs to be diffused, when if they had just provided rules to use in the absence of agreement, it wouldn’t be an issue.

    Doesn’t this just mean that each TO now needs to come up with their own terrain rules for placement, assignement of traits, etc – and wasn’t the whole point of 9th to avoid that by unifying the game structure?

    • Reecius June 11, 2020 11:21 am #

      Like I have been saying, the terrain rules are in my opinion, the most positive change from 8th to 9th. I think they’re really well done. As they’re saying there are keywords you can assign to a terrain piece and as they noted, multiple keywords can be given, so it lets you really make the terrain do what you want it to do.

      • assistantref June 11, 2020 11:26 am #

        I agree with all that – I like the basic system a lot. It seems smart and flexible.

        It just seems very weird there are no rules about how to actually place terrain and assign it keywords. According to the preview, it’s totally optional, with the only mechanism being “agree with your opponent as to what is fair.” They mentioned on stream that there were going to include a few photos and some samples, but specifically went out of their way to emphasize there are no actual rule about how to go about it, just suggestions.

        It seems like saying “agree with your opponent before the match how many CP each army gets – and if you can’t, well, who knows what happens?”

        • Reecius June 11, 2020 11:35 am #

          Well, wait to see the terrain and board set-up rules in their entirety before passing judgement. There’s quite a bit of it that hasn’t been revealed yet and I think many of your questions will be answered.

          • assistantref June 11, 2020 11:54 am

            Thanks, that is what I was hoping to hear. It sounds like their description on the stream about there being no rules other than “agree with your opponent” was a bit misleading.

          • Reecius June 11, 2020 12:31 pm

            Yeah my guess is that for tournaments the terrain will have pre-assigned traits in the pack but we will see.

            And happy to help.

          • KingAceNumber1 June 11, 2020 1:11 pm

            As a playtester, this HAS to be the most trying period of release for you. I cannot imagine having played 9th for as long as yall have and having to reply to sky-is-falling comments based on incomplete reveals.

          • Reecius June 11, 2020 2:04 pm

            It is challenging, yeah. You get used to it of course, but it’s tough not to get short tempered with people getting upset without having the full picture. But, we’ll get there soon enough and hopefully some of these concerns are alleviated.

  9. Pyrothem June 11, 2020 10:44 am #

    Reece can you confirm the “Heavy Cover” in this reveal is not a type-o?

    As it is written if you charge into units in Heavy Cover you get cover bonus to saves but your opponent does not. So going against a Melee army you are being told by the rules to avoid cover like the plague because it only gives the bonus to your opponent.

    Is this correct? Keeping your units in Heavy Cover Terrain intuitively feel like a good idea but rules as shown here means the opposite.

    • Reecius June 11, 2020 11:37 am #

      There’s more to be revealed yet, out of context some of this is a bit confusing. As hard as it is, I would wait a bit to get more info before assuming anything.

      • Pyrothem June 11, 2020 2:51 pm #

        Will do. I can’t imagine the hole you’re biting into your tongue trying to hold back what you know and could easily dispel most of this confusion.

        Maybe GW gets a kick out of the extrapolations we make on their little bread crumbs they leave out? Kind of sad you don’t get to be on this side of the fence free to make wild speculations. 😛

  10. Tony the Tiger June 11, 2020 3:12 pm #

    Hey Reece.

    Knights player here. The previewed rules don’t far have me a little worried about how viable they will be in 9th.

    Are there things knights players have got to look forward to?

    It’s not all doom and gloom right?

    • Tony the Tiger June 11, 2020 3:13 pm #

      *so far

    • Reecius June 11, 2020 3:37 pm #

      No, not doom and gloom at all. Remember, there are lots of terrain traits or “keywords” we haven’t seen yet so the picture is a bit hazy right now. I’d wait and see how things pan out, and play a few a games before jumping to conclusions. There’s lots of positive things for Knights players to be excited about, IMO.

  11. Tony the Tiger June 11, 2020 11:37 pm #

    Ok thanks.

  12. N.I.B. June 12, 2020 3:26 am #

    So ruins apparently not having ‘opaque’ keyword by default (I doubt ‘Defensible’ = opaque walls and roofs), means it will be up to pre-game discussion in causal games (and TO’s in tournaments). Kind of how it is now.
    Of course, it could be that ‘area terrain’ which ruins is a part of, have the rule that you can only target what you can see (please let it be so). And then you only add the keywords for the specific type of area terrain.

    ‘freely targeted’ is still a confusing way to phrase it.

  13. Tomguycot June 12, 2020 5:36 am #

    I am pretty sure that the people who are skeptical of this change did not play 4th edition 40k. This sounds very similar to how terrain worked in 4th edition and those rules were the best terrain rules the game has ever had. Once you wrapped your mind around the abstraction and stopped trying to use true line of sight it worked fantastically and no need for silly things like laser pointers and bending over the tables at odd angles. I was personally kind of crushed when 5th edition did away with it and it was really one of the few complaints I had about 5th edition outside of codex balance.

    So cheer up! This has the potential to be amazing.

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