Rarest Rules – Aircraft and Bombs

The 9th edition of Warhammer 40,000 launched in July of this year and has been touted as being one of the cleanest editions of 40k ever written. While it may get some flack for being verbose at times, in terms of technical writing that makes rules extremely clear cut in their intention and impact on the game – ideal for competitive play – it’s a big win. 

Games Workshop included a section in the core rules titled Rare Rules. This section clarifies some of the interactions between rules and abilities that the rules team knew would come up due to the change in verbiage between 8th edition codices and 9th edition core rules. 

However, there are some even Rarer Rules that did not get an entry in the core rules, that are continuing to puzzle many players as they learn the ropes of the new edition. Some of these rules legitimately do not have a clear answer, while some actually do (though they may be intuitive). 

In this series of articles, I’ll dive into these rules interactions that DO have a clear answer, but which seem to continually puzzle new and old players alike. In my weekly thread on r/Warhammercompetitive inviting players to ask their rules questions and seek community help to answer them, these are the most frequent – and somewhat divisive. 

Dropping Bombs And Entering Strategic Reserves

Lets kick this series off with what is probably the most common, and one of the more unintuitive ones. 

The Question: Can an <AIRCRAFT> drop bombs on the same turn that it moves off the board, into Strategic Reserves? 

The Community Gut Feeling: No, because it’s not on the board at the end of the movement phase when those bomb abilities trigger, and it feels like models that are not on the board should not interact with the board. 

The RAW Answer: Yes, they can drop bombs in the same turn they move off the board and into strategic reserves. 

Unpacking the Reasoning

1. The principal reason this feels unintuitive for many is the assumption that models off the board can’t interact with the board, or use abilities. 

There actually is no core rule that states that models, as a whole, cannot use abilities while they are off the board. The closest thing is the rules for units embarked in transports: 

“Units cannot normally do anything or be affected in any way while they are embarked. Unless specifically stated, abilities have no effect on units while they are embarked, and Stratagems cannot be used to affect units while they are embarked.” [Emphasis mine]

This wording prevents embarked units from using or being affected by abilities – this is key because it shows intent by GW to denote when/if a unit cannot be affected by abilities.  The precedent in 8th and now 9th is actually the opposite to what seems to be the community gut feeling  – units that are not on the board need to be able to use certain abilities on their datasheet. See: any unit that has a reserve mechanic codified on their datasheet. 

An embarked Kabalite unit neither impacted by the Archon’s aura nor holding an objective (Credit: Me)

2. 8th (and expected in 9th edition) codices denote in the ability text itself whether an ability is excluded from being used while the model or unit is off the board. For example, look at the wording for the Ultramarine warlord trait, Adept of the Codex:

Whilst this Warlord is on the battlefield, you can roll one D6 for each Command Point you spend to use a Stratagem; on a 5+ that Command Point is refunded. You can only have 1 Command Point refunded per battle round by this Warlord Trait.” [Emphasis Mine]

This wording shows intent by GW to codify when a specific ability that requires the model or unit be on the battlefield to gain the benefit. Other abilities, such as abilities with a range that would necessitate the model being on the board (such as with an aura ability or similar rule), do not need this clarification. 

3. Let’s now look at the specific rules sections for Aircraft as well as Strategic Reserves. If there was any place that would prevent the use of bombs while flying into Strategic Reserve, it would be here – right? 

Note: Here, we are looking for 2 possible ways to invalidate the various bombing rules. The first would be any rules that prevent the model from counting as having made a normal move or completing a move while moving into Strategic Reserves (a requirement of all bombing rules). The second is the explicit language that calls out the use of bombing abilities while moving into Strategic Reserves. 

  • The Aircraft rules denote how they move, ignore engagement range when moving, how to use the minimum and maximum move characteristics, and make note that if a move would take any part of the model off of the board, it goes into Strategic Reserves (unless the Strategic Reserve rules are not in place, in which case it is removed as a casualty). 
  • The Strategic Reserve rules denote how to put units into Strategic Reserve rules at the start of the battle, and how many Comman Points to spend based on combined Power Rating of units placed into Strategic Reserve. They also detail how to move units onto the board from Strategic Reserve. 
  • In the specifically titled section Aircraft and Strategic Reserves, we get rules for how to set up Aircraft from Strategic Reserves. We also get rules describing how to enter Strategic Reserve, clarifying that this does not cost any Command Points (also differing from the standard Strategic Reserve rules). 

None of those 3 sections include rules that would prevent an <AIRCRAFT> from dropping bombs or using other abilities. Nor do they state that the <AIRCRAFT> does not make a normal move or count as completing a move when it moves into Strategic Reserves. 

You can’t move 90 degrees at the end of your move if you’re not on the board, that’s just science (Credit: Brian Moy)

Putting it all together!

So where does that leave us? Well, we know: 

  • GW writes rules permissively. Any interaction that is not explicitly outlawed while staying within the construct of the core rules structure is a viable interaction 
  • In general, units can use abilities on their datasheet while off the board
  • GW has written explicitly when abilities are not able to be used or to affect units on the battlefield
  • There is no rule that prevents <AIRCRAFT> from counting as making or completing a move while flying into Strategic Reserves
  • There is no rule that prevents <AIRCRAFT> from using datasheet abilities while flying into Strategic Reserves

Let’s look at a specific example – my beloved Voidraven Bombers.

One way to get past Dense Cover rules and maybe new Reanimation Protocols (Credit: Me)

The Void Mine ability states:

“Once per battle, a Voidraven Bomber can drop a void mine on an enemy unit it moves over in one of its Movement phases. After the Voidraven Bomber has moved, pick one enemy unit that it flew over. Then, roll three D6 for each VEHICLE or MONSTER in the unit, or one D6 for every other model in the unit, up to a maximum of 10 D6. For each roll of 3+, the unit being bombed suffers a mortal wound.”

In order to drop a void mine, a Voidraven Bomber needs to:

  1. Move in the movement phase
  2. Move over an enemy unit in that movement phase

It can use abilities on a fundamental level while off the board. 

It counts as having made a move in the movement phase by all accounts. 

Therefore, as long as you move over an enemy unit on your way off the edge of the table, it can satisfy both of those requirements. 

Verdict: Yes, an <AIRCRAFT> unit can drop bombs while flying into Strategic Reserves, as long as the requirements of its specific bombing ability can be satisfied. 

What do you think? Do you think we missed a rule, or have a point of clarification? Share your thoughts in the comments below, on social media, or find me on Reddit hanging out in r/Warhammer and r/WarhammerCompetitive.

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