Basic Rules
URL Copied!

We're almost ready to dive into the turn sequence that drives the bloody business of Warhammer. However, before we begin, there are few basic ideas and game mechanics that it's worth discussing. These are essentially principles that are so broad that they pop up again and again while you're playing a game, so it makes a lot of sense to establish them before getting caught up in the more specialised rules that you'll find later on.

Measuring Distances

In Warhammer, distances are measured in inches (") with a tape measure. You can always measure distances and range at any time and for any reasons, which is especially useful before you declare an action, such as charging or shooting.

This allows you to check whether your units are in range of their target before they launch an attack. After all, our warriors are all led by experienced campaigners and we can assume that they can accurately judge the range of their weapons, even if we, their generals, cannot (one does not, after all, keep a dog and then bark themself).

Distances between models and all other objects are always measured from closest point on one base to the closest point on the other base. Distances between units are always measured to and from the closest models in each of the units (see diagram below).

Sometimes units will be mounted on movement trays for ease of use. Nevertheless, always use the model's base, and not the movement tray, as the reference point when taking your measurements. So, for example, if any part of a model's base is within 6" of the base of an enemy model, the two models are said to be within 6" of each other. Sometimes the rules will call upon a unit to move directly towards another unit, or some other feature on the battlefield. Where this is the case, draw an imaginary line between the centre of the unit and its destination, and move the unit forward along this line a number of inches equal to the distance stated.

The distance between the blue unit and the red unit is 6". We therefore say that the Goblins are within 6". The distance between the blue unit and the red monster is 3". We therefore say that the monster is within 3".


You’ll often need to roll dice to see how the actions of your models turn out – how effective their shooting is, what damage they've done in close combat, and so on.

Almost all the dice rolls in Warhammer use standard six-sided dice, also known as D6, but there are some exceptions as noted below.

Rolling a D3

In some circumstances you may be told to roll a D3. As there's no such thing as a three-sided dice, use the following method to determine a score between 1 and 3. Roll a D6 and halve the score, rounding up. Thus 1 or 2 = 1, 3 or 4 = 2 and 5 or 6 = 3.

Artillery Dice & Scatter Dice

Warhammer uses two special dice: the artillery dice (marked 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and Misfire) and a scatter dice (marked with arrows and Hit! symbols). These dice are mostly used to represent the effects of various war machines, such as cannon and stone throwers. Note that, except where clearly specified, the artillery and scatter dice cannot be re-rolled. We've not talked about re-rolls yet, but we will do shortly.

Dividing Values

Sometimes you'll be called upon to divide the result of a dice roll, a characteristic or some other value. Where this happens, any fractions should always be rounded up. So a 2D6 roll of 7 halved, would be a result of 4 (3.5 rounded up). Similarly, 10% of a unit of fifty one models, rounded up, would be 6 models.

Modifying Dice Rolls

Sometimes, you may have to modify the result of the dice roll. This is noted as D6 plus or minus a number, such as D6+1. Roll the dice and add or subtract the number given to or from the score (as appropriate) to get the final result. For example, D6+2 means roll a dice an add 2 to the score, giving a total between 3 and 8. You may also be told to roll a number of dice in one go, which is written as 2D6, 3D6 and so on. Roll the indicated number of dice and add the scores together, so a 2D6 roll is two dice rolled and added together for a score of 2-12. Another method is to multiply the score of a dice by a certain amount, such as D6x5 for a total of between 5 and 30.


In some situations, the rules allow you to pick up and re-roll a dice. This is exactly what it sounds like – pick up the dice you wish to re-roll, and roll it again. The second score counts, even if it means a worse result than the first, and no single dice can normally be re-rolled more than once, regardless of the source of the re-roll. If you re-roll a single 2D6 or 3D6 roll, you must re-roll all of the dice and not just some of them, unless the rule granting the re-roll specifies otherwise.

If a model is granted a re-roll from a special rule or similar while the enemy might have a special rule or similar that forces successful rolls to be re-rolled, they cancel each other out and no re-rolls are made for as long as both special rules are in effect.


If the rules require players to roll-off, this simply means that each player rolls a dice and the player that scores the highest result wins the roll-off. If the players roll the same result, both dice must be re-rolled again until one player is the winner – any modifiers that applied to the first dice roll are also applied to any further rolls.


Sometimes you'll be called upon to randomly select something – often a model, but sometimes a magic item, a spell or similar. Where this is the case, simply assign a D6 result to each of the things the random selection must be made from, and roll the dice to make your random choice. If you have fewer than six items to randomise between, simply re-roll any unassigned results until you roll an assigned number.


Some spells and war machines are so powerful that they don't just target a single model or unit, but have an 'area effect' which might encompass (and often utterly devastate) several different units. To better represent these, Warhammer uses a series of four different templates:

  • A small round template (3" in diameter)

  • A large round template (5" in diameter)

  • A flame template (a teardrop-shaped template roughly 8" long)

  • A straight line (length varies depending on the rule, the line itself can only ever cover one model in width)

The templates are used as a way of determining whether or not models have been hit by an attack that has an area of effect or blast radius. When an attack uses a template, it will explain how the template is positioned, including any kind of scatter that might occur (scatter is discussed more completely next in this section). To work out which models are hit, you normally need to hold the template over an enemy unit or a particular point on the battlefield (as close to the battlefield or unit as possible), and then look underneath to see which models' bases lie partially or completely underneath the template.

Normally, any model that is fully or even partially underneath the template is hit automatically with the effect described in the special rules for the attack. Remember that a model’s base is counted as being part of the model itself, so as long as any part of the base is under the template everything is hit.

If a model is hit by multiple templates at the same time, resolve each template one at a time in an order chosen by the controlling player.


Sometimes a rule will call for an object (a template, counter or even a unit) to be placed on the battlefield and then scattered. When this occurs, follow this procedure:

Place the object on the battlefield, as instructed by the rule. Roll a scatter dice to determine the direction of scatter, and any other dice required by the rule to determine the scatter distance. For example, if something is said to 'scatter 2D6" in a random direction' then you'd roll the scatter dice for the direction and 2D6" for the distance. It's normally a good idea to roll these as close to the scattering object as possible, to minimise the inaccuracy that will inevitably creep in as you attempt to match the vector.

If a Hit! is rolled on the scatter dice, the object does not move – leave it in place and resolve the rest of the rule.

If an arrow is rolled, move the object in the direction of the arrow and the distance (in inches) shown on the other dice, ignoring intervening terrain, units, etc, unless the rule states otherwise. Once the object has scattered to its final position, you can resolve the effects of the rule. Note that war machines usually use the artillery dice to determine the distance scattered.

Choosing a Random Direction

Some rules require that you choose a random direction. To do so, roll the scatter dice, and use the direction indicated by the direction of the arrow. If you roll a Hit!, use the arrow shown on the Hit! symbol to determine the direction.


Characteristics Test

A model will sometimes be called upon to take a characteristic test (see Characteristics for more info). Such a test could be applied against any characteristic the model has, save Leadership. A Toughness test is a characteristic test, as is a Strength test or an Initiative test, and so on.

Models will not normally have a choice of which characteristic they must use – the characteristic to be tested will be specified in the rule.

To make a characteristic test, roll a D6 and compare the score to the relevant characteristic in the model's profile. If the score is equal to or less than the number in the profile, the test is passed with no ill effect. If the score is greater than the number in the model's profile, the test has been failed, and something nasty will occur, as detailed in the rule that called for the test.

Where a model (or a unit) has more than one value for the same characteristic, as is the case with cavalry, for example, a characteristic test is always taken against the highest of the values.

If the unit is required to take a characteristic test, the best value in the unit is used. If every model in a unit is required to take a characteristic test, then each model uses its own best value instead.

Automatic Pass and Fail

When taking a characteristic test a natural roll of 6 is always a failure, and a natural 1 is always a success, regardless of any other modifiers. However, if the model has a characteristic of 0 or – it automatically fails the test.

Leadership Tests

At certain times, a model or unit might be called upon to take a Leadership test. This represents them drawing upon their courage to face disheartening circumstances, or to perform certain manoeuvres.

To take a Leadership, roll 2D6. If the result is equal to or less than the model's Leadership value, then the test has been passed. If the result is greater than the model's Leadership value, a suitably dire consequence will occur, as detailed in the rule that called for the test. This will normally involve the unit turning tail and fleeing from the enemy.

If a unit includes models with different Leadership values, always use the one with the highest Leadership – warriors naturally look to the most steadfast of their number for guidance. Note that a unit that has a LD of '0' or '–' automatically fail Leadership tests.

When taking a Leadership test, sometimes you have to take it on a unit’s unmodified Leadership. A unit’s unmodified Leadership is the highest Leadership characteristic in the unit. That means the Leadership from any characters in the unit itself (but not from outside the unit) with a higher Leadership can be used unless specifically stated otherwise.

Unmodified Leadership

When taking a Leadership test, sometimes you have to take it on a unit’s unmodified Leadership. A unit’s unmodified Leadership is the highest Leadership characteristic in the unit. That means the Leadership from any characters in the unit itself (but not from outside the unit) with a higher Leadership can be used unless specifically stated otherwise.

Psychology Tests

Psychology tests are a form of Leadership that applies in certain situations throughout the game, most commonly when testing for Panic. Psychology tests are governed by certain restrictions which do not apply to Leadership tests, and some models can be immune to needing to take certain Psychology tests.

Forming Units

The models that make up your Warhammer army must be organised into 'units'. A unit usually consists of several models that have banded together, but a single, powerful model such as a lone character, a chariot or a Dragon, a war machine and its crew, and so on, are also considered to be a unit.

A unit consists of 1 or more models that are arranged in base contact with each other in formations of squares and rectangles. All models in a unit must face the same direction. In addition, all models in the unit must be arranged in a formation that consists of one or more horizontal lines, called ranks, and a number of vertical lines, called files. This is why we often refer to basic warriors as 'rank and file' troops.

A unit may not have more complete ranks than they have files, e.g. if the unit is 5 models wide, it may at most have complete 5 ranks. The exception to this is if the unit is too wide to pass in between terrain or units; in these situations, the unit may temporary reform into a formation with more ranks than files for as long as it takes to pass the terrain or unit. After this, it must return to a legal formation again as soon as possible. As far as possible there must be the same number of models in each rank. Where this is not possible it must be the rear rank that has fewer models, and models should always be placed as centrally as possible. Once formed into a unit, the models move and fight as a single entity for the rest of the battle.

In some cases, you will see the rules talking about models in 'base contact'. Note that for whatever reason, a model is never considered to be in base contact with itself, only other models.

Here you can see examples of correct and incorrect formations.

Removing Casualties

When casualties occur, models are removed from the back rank of the unit. If the unit is reduced to a single rank, casualties must be removed evenly from either end of the line.

If a model has to be removed from a fighting rank as there are no others to replace them – for example a unit champion or character – another model will immediately fill the gap.

Unit Facing

A model has a forward, flank and rear arc based on the direction that it is facing. We'll be using this later to work out what the model can attack, as well as calculating which side of the model an enemy will be able to charge as the game goes on.

A model's forward (or 'front'), flank and rear arcs extend out from its corners at 45° angles, forming four 90° quadrants. A unit's facings therefore are determined by the facing of its constituent models.


Unit Strength

All models and units have a Unit Strength value to establish the relative power of all these different creatures. This is used to determine the overall size and power of each model for purposes like ranks, charging, flanking and so on, which will be described later.

In most cases this is worked out by simply counting the number of models in a unit. However, some huge creatures such as Trolls, chariots, etc, are more powerful than a man on foot! These creatures have a different Unit Strength. For information on each model’s Unit Strength, see the Troop Types chapter.

To work out the unit strength of a unit, count the number of models in the unit and multiply it by the appropriate number given. In the case of several models with different unit strengths in the same unit, simply add these together.

Line of Sight

Line of sight determines what a model can 'see'. Many situations call for you to determine whether or not a model has line of sight. A model normally needs line of sight whenever it wishes to attack an enemy, whether with sword, spell or bow.

Line of sight literally represents your warriors' view of the enemy – they must be able to see their foe through, under or over the battlefield terrain, and other models (friendly or enemy).

For one model to have line of sight to another, you must be able to trace an unblocked line from the front arc of its base to the base of the target. However, models with a higher Line of Sight value can see and be seen behind models or terrain with a lower Line of Sight value.

For more information about the different Line of Sight values, see the Troop Types chapter for models, and Battlefield Terrain chapter for terrain.

Example: A model with Line of Sight value 2 can see and be seen behind a model with Line of Sight value 1, but cannot see or be seen behind a model with Line of Sight Value 3.


Whilst every effort has been made to make sure that the sequencing of rules is utterly clear, occasionally you'll find that two or more rules are to be resolved at the same time – normally 'at the start of the Movement phase' or similar. When this happens, resolve both rules at the same time whenever possible. If this is not possible for any reason, then the player whose turn it is chooses the order.

Basic Rules and Advanced Rules

Finally, it's worth remembering that the rules for Warhammer are broken up into two distinct halves: basic rules and advanced rules.

Basic rules apply to all the models in the game, unless specifically stated otherwise. They include the rules for movement, shooting, close combat and so on, as well as the rules for Panic tests. These are all the rules you'll need for your average infantry model.

Advanced rules apply to specific types of model, whether because they have a special kind of weapon (such as a spear), unusual skills (such as flaming attacks or the ability to regenerate damaged flesh), because they are different to their fellows (such as a standard bearer or a mighty hero), or because they are not normal infantry models (a knight, a cannon or even a Dragon). The advanced rules that apply to a unit are indicated in the entry for the unit in their relevant Warhammer Armies book.

Basic Versus Advanced

Where rules apply to a specific model, they always override any contradicting basic rules. For example, the basic rules state that a model must take Panic test under certain situations. If, however, that model has a rule that makes it immune to Panic, then it does not test for Panic – the advanced rule takes precedence. On rare occasions, a conflict may arise between a rule in this rulebook, and one printed in a Warhammer Armies book. Where this occurs, the rule printed in the Warhammer Armies book always takes precedence.

The Most Important Rule

Remember, you're playing to enjoy a challenging battle with friends, where having fun and keeping to the spirit of the game is more important than winning at any cost.

Warhammer is an involving game, with many different races, weapons, and endless possibilities. In a game of this size and level of complexity there are bound to be certain occasions where a particular situation lies outside the rules as they are written. Warhammer players should feel free to improvise where necessary, resolving such situations in a friendly and mutually agreed manner, and evolving the game far beyond the published rules if they wish.

When you come across a situation in a battle that is not covered fully by the rules, be prepared to interpret a rule or come up with a suitable house rule for yourselves.

When a situation of contention arises, players should agree on a fair and reasonable solution and get on with the game as quickly as possible. The most common way of resolving any disputes is for a player to roll a D6 to see whose interpretation applies in that instance. On the roll of 1-3 player A may decide, on a 4-6 player B may decide. After the game has finished, sit down and discuss what happened with your opponent and see if you can both reach an agreement in case the same situation ever arises again (this is called a 'house rule').

Likewise; if there are any rules you or your gaming group dislike, feel free to discuss them among yourself and change them accordingly to something you prefer. This book is meant as a framework to play the game around, but feel free to make up new rules or changes as you see fit as long as your opponent agrees with you.

Next - Characteristics