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for 40K Players

Warhammer 40,000 by Games Workshop is the world's most popular science-fiction wargame, but AT-43 by Rackham is gaining in popularity, also among players who are used to Warhammer 40,000 (or 40K, as it is often known for short). This web page tries to set out some of the more important differences between the two games in an objective manner. It is mainly intended for people who are used to 40K but have recently started playing AT-43 and so may need a reminder of these differences, as well as for ones who would like to know in what ways AT-43 differs from 40K before deciding whether or not to start playing AT-43 as well.

Space Marines vs. Steel TacArms

Naturally, there is a lot more to the two games than the differences shown below. However, this page constrains itself mainly to the game rules as well as some other factors that can be compared objectively, without getting into a debate about which of the two is supposedly better than the other. If you are a 40K player who is wondering whether AT-43 is a game for you, this page should provide some ideas. It is still advisable to play a few games with someone who knows the AT-43 rules, and/or to discuss the merits and flaws of both systems with other gamers, before you reach a definite conclusion (whether positive or negative). Note that although there are web forums dedicated to both games, many (especially those set up or endorsed by the game's manufacturer) frown on discussions that compare different game systems, so you may want to find a neutral forum to ask these kinds of questions.

Page numbers

The page numbers shown on the tables below refer to the AT-43 rulebook (which can be freely downloaded from Rackham's web site), so you can look up the actual rules for the situations mentioned.

· Basics

Warhammer 40,000 AT-43


Distances are measured in inches, abbreviated ; 1″ = 2.54 centimeters.
The Warhammer 40,000 starting set, Assault on Black Reach, comes with red plastic measuring sticks, 18″ in length, and Games Workshop measuring tapes are marked in inches and centimeters.

Centimeters and ranges

Distances are measured in centimeters, abbreviated cm; 1 cm = 0.393 inches. In ranged combat, distances are measured using ranges that are 10 cm (3.93 inches) long.
The AT-43 starting set, Operation Damocles, comes with a measuring tape marked in centimeters and inches on one side, and ranges on the other.
page 15


To play an army, you need the relevant Codex book for that army to get the units' and models' game statistics, special rules, points costs, and so on.

Army Books & cards

Each army has an Army Book that describes the units' and models' game statistics, special rules, etc, which you will need to play the army. You also need special playing cards for the units you have in your army; these have the most important game statistics for the unit on them as a quick reference, and are used for other purposes during the game as well. The cards are supplied with the models, not with the Army Books.
page 50

Deployment before turn 1

At the start of the game, before the first turn, both players deploy their units (and/or designate some as being in reserve, so they will appear in later turns during the game). When the first turn starts, both sides have an army on the table.

Deployment during turn 1

At the start of the the first turn, there are no units on the table; instead, each unit that is not designated as being part of the reinforcements, moves onto the table from one of the access points designated by the mission being played.
page 84

Getting the first turn

At the start of the game, both players roll to see who gets the first player turn. This roll is made only once, at the start of the game, and the same player goes first in each game turn.

Authority test

At the start of a turn, both players roll an Authority test to see who goes first that turn. This roll is made again at the start of each new turn.
page 55

I go, you go

In each game turn, you move and attack with your entire army, and then your opponent does the same.

Alternating activation

In a turn, you activate a unit, then your opponent activates a unit; unit activation alternates until one of you has no units left to activate, at which point the other player activates his or her remaining units one at a time.
page 57

Any unit may be activated

When it's your turn, you can activate units (to move, shoot or assault) in any order you like.

Activation sequence

At the start of each turn, you make an activation sequence using playing cards that each represent a unit you have on the battlefield. When it's your turn, you turn over the left-most card and must activate the unit it represents. There are also ways to wait, to activate more than one unit, or to move it to another point in the activation sequence.
page 55

All units may be activated

During your turn, you can activate each unit in your army once.

Leadership Points

At the start of each turn, you get a number of Leadership Points (L.P.), which you must spend to activate units. You get enough points to activate each unit once, plus some extra. Because these points can also be spent on other things, they may run out before you have reached the last card in your activation sequence, preventing you from activating all your units in that turn. A unit may only be activated once per turn, even if you have enough L.P. to activate it several times.
page 54


When it's your turn, you first move some or all of your units, then you shoot with them, and finally you make assault moves. You may not perform these actions in a different order: once you shoot with a unit, no other unit may move anymore for the rest of your turn, for example.

Any order

A unit may move, shoot and/or fight a close combat in almost any order you want. The only exception is that the unit's activation ends after a close combat it initiated is resolved. This means you may perform one the following sequences of actions with a unit:
  • Close combat
  • Move
  • Move, then close combat
  • Move, then shoot
  • Move, then shoot, then close combat
  • Shoot
  • Shoot, then move
  • Shoot, then move, then close combat
  • Shoot, then close combat
(Note that this list ignores the effects of combat drills, which may give additional options.)
page 58 & 59

Strategy happens in the last turns

You gain no real benefit from holding an objective until after the game is over and the mission's objectives are evaluated, which means many battles consist of killing as many of the enemy as possible for the majority of the game. Trying to capture the game's objectives typically happens only in the last few game turns. (This has eased a bit with the fifth edition because game length is randomly determined, forcing players to start taking objectives earlier than in previous editions.)

Strategy all the way

Objectives are usually actively contested for most of a battle. This is because, if you capture or control an objective, you gain Victory Points that will make you win the game, and/or get Reinforcement Points to bring new units into play next turn.
page 87

Reserves are random

Because you roll a die for them at the start of your turn, you cannot control when your reserves will become available. When any of them do, you are required to deploy these, even if you don't want them yet.

Reinforcements are up to you

Capturing strategic locations on the battlefield gives you Reinforcement Points to spend on bringing reserve units into play. At the start of your turn, you can decide which ones to deploy, provided you have enough points to spend for them.
page 87

Semi-fixed game length

A game lasts five, six or seven turns. At the end of turns five and six, you roll a die to determine if there will be another turn. If a seventh turn is played, the game automatically ends after that turn is over.

Game length set by mission

The game lasts until a condition set by the mission being played is achieved. Sometimes this is a fixed length, such as six turns, while other times the game continues until one player gets specific number of Victory Points.
page 88–95


The logo on Games Workshop's dice takes the place of the 1.


The logo on Rackham's dice takes the place of the 6.
page 15

· Units

Space Marines and Therian Assault Golems in close combat
Warhammer 40,000 AT-43

Unit categories

Units are divided into five different categories: HQ, Elites, Troops, Fast Attack and Heavy Support. A unit normally only falls into one of these categories.

Unit types and categories

Units are categorized by their type: ★, ★★ or ★★★; and category: Soldiers (infantry), Support Unit (infantry with heavier weapons), Combat Strider (walker-type vehicles), or Vehicle (all other vehicles). Type and category are combined to indicate the exact kind of unit, for example ★ Soldiers, ★★ Soldiers, ★★ Combat Strider, and so on.
pages 47–48

Force organisation chart

The force organisation chart for the mission specifies which types of units you may take (HQ, Elites, etc.), how many of each you are required to have, and the maximum number of each you may take.
If you play large games, you may need more than one force organisation chart to accommodate all your units, but there are no hard and fast rules for this situation.
The mission determines the force organisation chart that both players are required to use for the game.

Platoon pattern

The platoon pattern contains five slots that each indicate what type of unit may be put into it (Type ★ or ★★ infantry, Type ★★★ support unit, etc.), and which ones are required to be filled. Once you have a unit allocated to each of the five slots, you may start a new platoon. Your whole force, with all your platoons, is called a company. There is a limit to the number of officers your platoons and company may have.
The army you play, and possibly the faction you choose from within the army, determines the platoon pattern(s) you may use. You will normally use different platoon patterns from your opponent's because of this.
page 79

Pay points per model

When creating an army, you usually pay a points cost for each model in each unit in the army; each unit has a certain minimum and maximum number of models it may have. You pay extra points for upgrades to the models and/or to the unit as a whole, such as heavy weapons or skills, even if they are mandatory.
Note: This has changed with the release of the fifth-edition Codex: Space Marines: you now pay points for whole units, often including one or more special or heavy weapons. You can spend additional points to upgrade weapons, take more models or special equipment, etc.

Pay points for the whole unit

When creating an army, you pay a points cost for each unit in the army; there are different points costs for the unit at its minimum and its maximum strength, and these include the support weapons the unit has. You pay extra for upgrades to the unit, such as to add extra models, to change all the support weapons to another type, to turn models into specialists (medics, mechanics, etc.), to include a better unit leader, and so on.
page 80

Unit leaders give upgrades

The unit leader's function is mainly to give the unit a better Leadership characteristic, and frequently to provide some additional or better wargear for the unit. If the unit leader is killed, the model is not replaced.

Unit leader is central

The unit leader is the central point of the unit, because distances for shooting are measured from this model. The leader may allow extra models to be taken in the unit, but it does not normally have better characteristics than the rest of the unit. If the leader is killed, the closest surviving model to it becomes the new unit leader.
page 46

2″ unit coherency

Each model must remain within 2″ of another model in the same unit. You may string a unit out in a long line (or any other shape) if you want to and can maintain coherency.

2.5-cm and 10-cm cohesion

Each model must remain within 2.5 cm of another model in the same unit and within 10 cm of the unit's leader. This requires units to stay in fairly tight groups and prevents them from spreading into lines.
page 47

· Heroes

Warhammer 40,000 AT-43

Independent characters

Independent characters may move separately or they may join a nearby unit during any Movement Phase (or before the game starts).


Heroes must either join a unit or operate as a unit by themselves, depending on their specific rules.
pages 76–77

Cannot be shot at

A character that is part of a unit cannot be singled out for an attack in the Shooting phase. However, characters fight independently in the Assault phase, and so can take damage from specific enemies then.

Cannot take damage if not alone

All other members of the unit must be killed before a hero attached to the unit can take any damage.
page 77

· Movement

Warhammer 40,000 AT-43

Everyone moves at the same speed

Infantry may generally move no more than 6″ per turn and most vehicles 12″. There are exceptions to these rules, but these fall into specific categories that allow different movement rates (for example, all fast vehicles may move 18″ per turn).

Different models have different movement rates

Each unit's card indicates the speed at which the unit may move, in centimeters per turn. This can be different for each type of unit, and vehicles usually have a higher Movement characteristic than infantry.
page 50


A unit that does not consist of vehicles may run 1D6″ in the Shooting phase. If it does so, it may not shoot in the same turn, and unless it has the Fleet special rule it may not assault, either.

Rush movement

When a unit moves, you may declare it is making a rush movement. When doing so, infantry units add +6 cm and vehicles +10 cm to their normal movement rates. When making a rush movement, the unit may not fire but may initiate a close combat.
page 58

Difficult terrain

When a unit wants to move through, into or out of difficult terrain, you must roll 2D6 (or more dice, for some units); the highest-rolling die indicates the number of inches the unit may move that turn.

Going through terrain elements

Movement through terrain is impossible unless players agree it can be done. A unit that moves through terrain may only move at half its normal Movement rate.
page 96

· General Combat

Warhammer 40,000 AT-43

Roll to hit, to wound, and to save

When making an attack, you first roll to see how many hits you score, then if any of those hits become wounds for the target, and finally to see if the models hit survive due to their armor (depending on the weapon used by the attacker, this last roll may not always be made).

Roll to hit, then for damage

When making an attack, you first roll to see how many impacts you score, and then if any of those impacts cause damage to the target. Armor is already incorporated into the damage roll and does not figure separately.
pages 51 & 61–66

Allocating wounds

Wounds that result from successful attacks must be spread evenly throughout the unit that is being targeted, so that each model receives the same number of wounds if at all possible. Excess wounds may be allocated to any model you want in the unit.

Zone of fire

Each impact from successful shots must be allocated to models in the zone of fire, beginning with the model closest to the firing unit's leader, then the next-closest, and so on. This can include friendly models or models of a unit that was not actually being targeted.
pages 63–67


Most models are removed from play as soon as they take a single wound. Some models have more than one wound, which allows them to survive taking damage more than once.

Damage points

All infantry models are killed when they take a single point of damage, but vehicles have more than one Structure Point and so can take more points of damage before being removed from play.
page 51

One wound per weapon

Each weapon only ever causes one wound per hit it scores. If a weapon hits a vehicle, each hit causes a single roll on the damage table. However, if a weapon has high enough Strength compared to the target's Toughness, it can kill the target outright regardless of how many wounds the target has remaining.

Different damage values

Weapons can cause more than one point of damage per impact. If such a weapon hits an infantry model, the extra damage is ignored, but if it hits a vehicle, it will cause it to lose more than one Structure Point (SP) from a single impact.
page 52

Roll to hit for all weapons, then resolve damage

When a unit shoots, you must roll for each of its weapons to see if it hits, and only then resolve the damage from all the attacks that hit. All weapons must attack the same target.

Roll to hit and resolve damage per weapon type

Each type of weapon carried by a unit shoots separately. Once all rolls to hit have been made for one type of weapon, you resolve the damage from its attacks before proceeding with firing the next weapon type. Different weapons may be fired against different targets, and if models in the unit carry multiples of the same weapon, these are resolved separately as well.
page 68


If a weapon is twin-linked, you may re-roll failed to-hit rolls. You may not re-roll a die that has already been re-rolled.


Each weapon's statistics indicates how many times its misses may be re-rolled. This can theoretically be more than once, though currently no weapon has the ability to re-roll multiple times.
page 50

· Ranged combat

U.N.A. Steel Troopers firing on Tau Stealth Suits
Warhammer 40,000 AT-43

In range: yes or no?

Weapons have fixed ranges out to which they can shoot without penalties for longer ranges or bonuses for firing at a close target. If the target is further away than the weapon's range, it cannot be hit at all.

Range modifiers

Weapons do not have maximum ranges as such. Instead, the firing model's Accuracy [icon] together with the range to the target determine what you need to roll to hit; if this indicates an automatic miss, the target is out of range.
Certain types of weapon, however, always hit on the same roll, and have no maximum range — if you can see it, you can hit it. This is specified in such a weapon's description.
page 64

Measure for each model

You must measure for each model that shoots whether it is in range of the enemy. If it does not have at least one model of the target unit within range, the model may not shoot.

Measure from the leader

You measure from the shooting unit's leader to the target unit's leader. All models in the shooting unit may attack (assuming none of them will miss automatically at the measured range).
page 64

Intervening models provide cover

When there are models in between the shooting unit and its target, the target receives a Cover save to represent the shot missing due to the intervening models.

Intervening models can be hit

If there is a unit between the attacking unit and its target inside the zone of fire, the intervening unit will be hit if the attacker scores any impacts. Only after an impact has been allocated to each intervening model are impacts assigned to the actual target unit.
page 64

Going to ground

A unit may go to ground to gain a better cover save than it would normally get. It can do this when it comes under enemy fire, and can do it in open terrain to gain a cover save if it would not otherwise get one.

Take cover!

After a unit has moved, it may be given the Take Cover! combat drill, which improves its Cover test. This has no effect if the unit would not get a Cover test against the attack, however.
page 59

No shooting into close combat

You may not shoot at a unit that is locked in close combat.

Shooting into close combat is allowed

It is allowed to shoot at a unit that is engaged with another unit. Hits are distributed to the closest models to the firing unit's leader just as for other ranged attacks — which can be friendly models.
page 64

· Close combat

Warhammer 40,000 AT-43

Base contact or within 2″

Models may fight in a close combat if they are in base-to-base contact with an enemy model, or if they are within 2″ of a model from their own unit that is.

In contact

Models can fight in a close combat if they are within 2.5 cm of an enemy.
pages 47 & 70

Both sides fight

In an assault, both sides can attack and kill the other.

Only the attackers fight

Only the unit that initiated the close combat will attack, and only they can kill their enemies. The enemy may choose to hit back on their own next activation, if there are still models in range.
page 71

All models fight

All models that are close enough to the enemy can fight in a close combat.

Special weapons cannot fight

A model equipped with a special weapon may not attack in a close combat (though they can be attacked in one).
page 70

Initiative order

Models fight in order from highest Initiative characteristic to lowest. If a model is killed before its Initiative comes up, it cannot fight.

Order is chosen by attacking player

The attacker splits the combat into groups so that each group only contains a single type of attacker and a single type of defender. Each of these sub-combats is then resolved in whatever order the attacker wants to.
page 71

Defender chooses casualties

The defender allocates the wounds that have been inflicted to models, though they must be distributed evenly.

Attacker chooses casualties

The attacker chooses which of the defender's models are removed as casualties in each sub-combat.
page 71

Locked in combat

After an assault is fought and neither side is wiped out or runs away, the units involved are locked in combat and may not do anything in subsequent turns except continue the fight. Vehicles may move away as they cannot be locked in combat.

Engaged but may move away

An infantry unit that has enemies within 2.5 cm is engaged but may move away at one-half its normal movement rate. Vehicles may move at their full speed as they are never engaged.
page 58

· Morale

Warhammer 40,000 AT-43

Morale checks for casualties, tank shock and losing an assault

A non-vehicle unit must make a Morale check when it suffers 25% casualties in a single phase, when it is Tank Shocked, and when more wounds are inflicted on it in a close combat than the unit itself inflicted on the enemy. The check is made at the end of the phase in the first case, and right after the event in the other two cases.
Vehicles never roll Morale tests, and are always considered to pass them automatically.

Morale tests for unit size and vehicle immobilization and casualties

Infantry units must roll a Morale test right before it is activated if it is a Type ★ or ★★ unit and has three or fewer members left, or if it is a Type ★★★ unit with only one member left.
A vehicle unit of any Type must take a Morale test when it is activated if all vehicles in the unit are immobilized, and also the moment one of the models in the unit is destroyed or abandoned.
pages 74–75

Fine or falling back

A unit has no special morale status at the start of the game, and can fight normally. When it fails a Morale check, it will fall back. Normally, a unit may try to regroup in your subsequent player turns by succeeding at a Morale check; if it does, it can fight normally again.

Valiant, disorganized or routing

A unit is considered to be Valiant at the start of the game, and can fight normally. When it fails a Morale test, it becomes Disorganized and requires more Leadership Points to activate than normal. If a Disorganized unit fails another Morale test, it goes into Routing status.
page 75

Falling back

A unit that falls back must move 2D6″ toward your table edge (some units fall back toward other items on the battlefield and/or move faster, depending on their special rules). If any model in the unit reaches the edge of the table, the unit is removed from play.


A Routing unit is immediately removed from the table.
page 75


A unit that has the Fearless special rule automatically succeeds at all Morale checks it is forced to make.

Nerves of steel

A model whose Morale is shown as automatically succeeds at all Morale tests it is forced to make.
page 75

· Vehicles

Imperial Guard Hellhound tank and Red Blok Nakovalny combat strider facing off
Warhammer 40,000 AT-43

Armour Values & facings

Vehicles have Armour Values rather than Saves, and these are often different for the different sides of the vehicle. It is often a good tactic to shoot a vehicle from its side or rear to hit a weaker side of its armor.


Vehicles have a Protection characteristic just like infantry do, and this one value applies regardless of the side the vehicle is attacked from. Shooting it from the side or rear gives no advantage.
page 51

Vehicle damage table

When a vehicle is damaged, a roll is made on a table to see what the effect is. This can range from the crew being shaken to the vehicle exploding. Hits can be glancing or penetrating, the former having less effect than the latter.

Location table

When a vehicle suffers damage, a roll is made on a table to determine what part of the vehicle was hit. This can be its propulsion, its frame or a weapon. Each of these parts has one or more Structure Points (SP) that will be removed by damage, and when a component has none left, it is destroyed. A vehicle is destroyed when its frame has no more Structure Points. There are no different levels of impact.
page 52

Tank shock

A vehicle classified as a tank may tank shock an infantry unit, forcing them to make a Morale test or fall back. One model may attempt to make a Death or Glory attack to try and stop the vehicle, and is automatically killed if this fails. No other models of the target unit can be wounded or killed.

Running over infantry

Any vehicle may attempt to run over infantry. Any model that would be in the vehicle's way may be hit and take damage. The infantry cannot attempt to stop the vehicle, but may attack it during their next activation.
page 59


A tank may ram another vehicle to cause it damage.

Close combat attacks

Vehicles can only damage other vehicles by shooting them, or by making standard close combat attacks against them if the vehicle is capable of doing so.
page 71

Immune to morale

Vehicles never need to make Morale checks.

Vehicle units make morale tests

When a unit that consists of two or more vehicles has one of its vehicles destroyed, it must immediately roll a Morale test.
page 75

Small print

This web site is completely unofficial and in no way endorsed by Games Workshop Limited. In fact, I have a feeling their clearly paranoid lawyers would rather see it removed altogether …

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