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Are you new to tabletop wargaming? Or are you a grizzled veteran looking for a new challenge? Either way, open play games are one of the best ways to get started, providing you with almost limitless options and flexibility.

Brilliant ideas are sometimes the simplest, and open play games of Warhammer 40,000 epitomise this. Open play is a style of gaming that allows you to take to the battlefield with any army, made up of any Citadel Miniatures from your collection – no restrictions. It’s as straightforward and streamlined as wargaming gets, and it’s a great way to begin.

Many players love the deep and complex rules that have traditionally defined tabletop wargaming, and if that’s your preferred style, then you’ll find plenty of support and guidance right here in this book. However, there’s also a lot of fun to be found in a more flexible approach. All you need to play an open play game are your painted miniatures, their datasheets, the core rules, a set of dice, a tape measure, a surface on which to play and a willing opponent. Then, just set up your models and start having fun! You can add extra dimensions to your open play games by incorporating any of the rules or guidelines that appear in this and other Warhammer 40,000 books, such as rules for Detachments, battlezones and battlefield terrain. Alternatively, you can devise your own missions, creating entirely new objectives or special rules, or you could adapt any existing mission to better suit your needs.

The flexible nature of open play means that you can spend as much or as little time as you like reading rules, and it’s a great introduction to the world of tabletop games. This style of gaming is perfect for beginners, who may not yet own a complete collection of miniatures. It’s also ideal for veterans thinking of starting a new collection, and allows battles to be fought with just a few units of the models you plan to collect, so that you can see how they perform and what tactics work best with them.

Open play games allow the broadest choice of army selection, providing the greatest degree of freedom for collecting miniatures and putting together an army. Rather than structuring your collection around a particular Faction, you can be inspired by any facet of the diverse and brutal galaxy, or simply by the models you most admire. If you’re the proud owner of a varied collection of warriors, war machines and monstrous creatures, there’s nothing to stop you fielding all of them in a single game. You can even deploy every last miniature you own in a battle of apocalyptic proportions, or set yourself unusual challenges. For instance, you could discover how many Space Marine Intercessors it takes to bring down your friend’s Khorne Bloodthirster, or see how long a heroic Terminator Captain could fight off a Nurgling horde.

While there are no restrictions or requirements placed on the models you can use in open play games, it’s best to have a chat with your opponent before the game begins to discuss what models you will each be taking in your armies. You can even make use of elements of matched play, like points, if you wish, but it is entirely up to you.

Besides giving you freedom to do more with your collection, open play games are also perfect for battles between multiple players. For example, there’s a great fight to be had where a third player brings their Drukhari raiders to the battlefield. The piratical xenos strike from the shadows, preying on targets from the other armies, or perhaps even forging fleeting alliances with one side or the other. In open play, the types of battles you fight are limited only by your imagination.

You should feel free to tinker with any aspect of playing a game of Warhammer 40,000 that appeals to you. You could, for example, devise other methods of deploying your forces. You might place a screen across the centre of the table so that the armies can deploy in secret, or you and your opponent might each draw a map showing where you plan to deploy your units, and so on.

With so much scope for fun and creativity, open play is one of the most accessible and enjoyable gaming styles, for beginners and veterans alike. So what are you waiting for? Grab your miniatures collection, however large or small, and give open play a try!

War Without End

No form of war is unknown in the galaxy. On these pages you will find three examples of open play missions – Annihilation, Hold at all Costs and Death or Glory – that you can use to start waging war right away. You will also find a few ideas below to spark your imagination for other open play battles; you should feel free to use these hooks as the basis of your battles, or simply create ones of your own.

  • An elite force strikes behind enemy lines to assassinate the foe’s commanders.
  • An evil ritual is nearing completion – fight to prevent its culmination, or bring about its fruition.
  • A group of sappers attempts to sabotage a mighty war machine or fortress before it, and its terribly powerful weapons, become fully operational.
  • A convoy is ambushed – how many of its vital supplies can it escape with?
  • You and your opponent(s) are trying to reach a powerful relic; use your fastest units to race across the long battlefield and be first to claim the prize!
  • As you signal the attack, your own allies suddenly reveal their traitorous intent and open fire upon your lines. Can you rally to wage a war on two fronts and prevail?
  • Your enemy believes their position unassailable. Lead the forlorn attempt to create a breach and bring victory!
  • A band of operatives must silence sentries and enable their army’s approach.
  • A priceless piece of archeotech is lost within these war-torn ruins – your forces must be the ones to discover its location and take it back to your headquarters.
  • A beleaguered army must hold out long enough for reinforcements to relieve them.
  • You have been entrusted with the life of a dignitary – you must escort them safely across the war zone.
  • Snipers and close-quarters fighters come into their own in a claustrophobic battle through the ruins of a fallen hive city.
  • After months of fighting, the enemy army is on the verge of routing. Break their morale and victory will be assured.

TEAM GAMES

Warhammer 40,000 battles are conventionally fought between two players, but battling it out with three or more lends the game a different dynamic and ensures that no one has to sit out. Of course, the real joy of team games is the social aspect, and you’ll discover true camaraderie with your fellow gamers over salvoes of good-natured banter aimed across the battlefield, making it clear that this gaming style is fun for friend and foe alike.

It couldn’t be easier to play a team game. Once all players have assembled with their armies, simply split into two teams – how you divide the players is entirely up to you. Having done so, select one model on each team to be their Warlord and then play the battle exactly as you normally would, using the same rules but replacing terms like ‘player’ and ‘opponent’ with ‘team’ or ‘opposing team’.

Annihilation

Two warlords face each other, intent on destroying all that stand before them. Each must attempt to annihilate their opponent, whilst minimising their own losses.

THE ARMIES
In order to play this mission, you must first muster an army from the miniatures in your collection. You can include any models in your army, but this mission works especially well when both armies have a roughly equal Power Level.

THE BATTLEFIELD
Create the battlefield and set up terrain.

DEPLOYMENT
Once the battlefield has been created, the players roll off. The player who rolled highest divides the battlefield into two equal-sized halves. Then, the player who rolled lowest chooses a half to be their deployment zone; the opposite half is their opponent’s deployment zone. The players then alternate deploying their units, one at a time, starting with the player who did not pick their deployment zone. Models must be set up in their own deployment zone, more than 12" from the enemy deployment zone. Continue setting up units until both players have set up all the units in their army, or you have run out of room to set up more units.

FIRST TURN
The player who finished setting up their army first can choose whether to have the first or second turn.

BATTLE LENGTH
The battle lasts for five battle rounds, or until one army has slain all of its foes.

VICTORY CONDITIONS
If one army has slain all of its foes, it immediately wins a major victory. Otherwise, at the end of the battle, the player who has the most models remaining wins a minor victory.

Hold at all Costs

The battlefield lies at a crossing of key strategic importance. A defending army stands ready to hold it at all costs in the face of a superior foe that surrounds them.

THE ARMIES
In order to play this mission, you must first muster an army from the miniatures in your collection. You can include any models in your army, but this mission works especially well when the Power Level of one army is between a third higher and double that of the other. In this mission, the player whose army has the higher Power Level is the Attacker; their opponent is the Defender.

THE BATTLEFIELD
Create the battlefield and set up terrain. The centre of the battlefield should contain at least one terrain feature, such as a hill, a building or a large ruin that the Defender’s units can begin the battle holding.

DEPLOYMENT
Once the battlefield has been created, the Defender sets up their entire army anywhere that is within 18" of the centre of the battlefield. The Attacker then sets up their entire army anywhere that is more than 12" from any enemy model.

FIRST TURN
The players should roll off, and whoever rolls highest can choose whether to have the first or second turn.

BATTLE LENGTH
The battle lasts for five battle rounds, or until one army has slain all of its foes.

VICTORY CONDITIONS
If one army has slain all of its foes, it immediately wins a major victory. Otherwise, at the end of the battle, the player whose model is closest to the centre of the battlefield wins a major victory.

Death or Glory

An outnumbered army faces inevitable defeat, but if they sell their lives dearly, and even a single warrior survives, they will have earned a heroic death.

THE ARMIES
In order to play this mission, you must first muster an army from the miniatures in your collection. You can include any models in your army, but this mission works especially well when the Power Level of one army is at least twice that of the other. In this mission, the player whose army has the higher Power Level is the Attacker, and their opponent is the Defender.

THE BATTLEFIELD
Create the battlefield and set up terrain.

DEPLOYMENT
Once the battlefield has been created, the players should roll off. The player who rolled lowest chooses a half to be their deployment zone; the opposite half is their opponent’s deployment zone. The Attacker sets up their entire army first, and the Defender sets up their entire army second. Models must be set up in their own deployment zone, more than 12" from the enemy deployment zone.

FIRST TURN
The Defender can choose whether to have the first or second turn.

BATTLE LENGTH
The battle lasts for five battle rounds, or until one army has slain all of its foes.

VICTORY CONDITIONS
If one army has slain all of its foes, it immediately wins a major victory. Otherwise, at the end of the battle, the Defender wins a heroic victory if they have even a single model remaining on the battlefield.
Roll-offs
Some rules instruct players to roll off. To do so, both players roll a D6, and whoever scores highest wins the roll-off. In the case of a tie, both players re-roll their D6; this is the only time players can reroll a re-roll – if the second and subsequent rolls are also tied, keep on rolling until a winner is decided.
© Vyacheslav Maltsev 2013-2018