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How Combat Patrols Work In Warhammer 40,000 Tenth Edition

Combat Patrols are one of the most-discussed and welcomed features of Warhammer 40,000’s new tenth edition. We’ve been told they’ll streamline and balance play for smaller-point games, and that we’ll be able to buy one of the existing (or future) Combat Patrol boxes, put the models together, and throw down on a gaming table right away with them, as-is (no army-building). It’s supposed to be an especially good way for newer players to get into the game, both in terms of the learning curve and the amount of money invested.

But ninth edition already included something called Combat Patrol play. So what’s new? And why should you care? Glad you asked! The answers are all here with the release of the tenth edition rules.

In ninth edition, for the “Matched Play” style of game, there were four named breakpoints for the size of a game:

Combat Patrol500 points
Incursion1,000 points
Strike Force2,000 points
Onslaught3,000 points

This led me to think that there might be a special ruleset in the new edition for dealing with 500 point games differently. It turns out that isn’t really the case. Now, in tenth edition, a Combat Patrol doesn’t refer to a game size breakpoint, but rather an entirely different “mode” of play. As such, tenth edition has only three of those breakpoints for the standard mode of play: Incursion, Strike Force, and Onslaught.

The Combat Patrol mode in tenth edition offers “tailor-made forces,” so it isn’t about point values, but rather, each faction has its own set unit list for Combat Patrol mode. This takes the burden of learning army-building off the shoulders of new players.

Combat Patrol play also seems like the spiritual successor to the Open Play mode introduced in ninth edition. In Open Play, players would use the more abstract Power Level unit ratings rather than the traditional method of using the more detailed points system of Matched Play (the most traditional way to play). Although this was simpler in intention, it still involved some level of army-building skill; coming up with this or that combo that seems most effective. Tenth edition Combat Patrol play eliminates even this nuance for a truly level playing field when it comes to the make-up of your army, at the same time seeming to acknowledge that more casual play works best with fewer models on the table than in a traditional game size of 1,000 points or more.

In the new Combat Patrol mode, models even have different versions of their index rules from the ones in standard play, with fixed weapons (rather than choosing from lists of weapons) and abilities, and other modifications from standard play mode indices. Much of the stat changes for Combat Patrol are made intentionally to make a smaller, shorter-playing game more balanced.

It was these very problems with balance that made older editions of the game seem unfriendly to lower point-level battles. Games Workshop has tried to solve this problem for years, introducing successive modifications and rules for shorter, smaller games, beginning with the rather informal “40k In 40 Minutes” and culminating in what would become its own unique beast, the stand-alone Kill Team game.

But Kill Team isn’t necessarily that beginner-friendly as it still involves building the titular kill team forces on your own.

In addition to set army lists, Combat Patrol games also feature their own, separate Missions and Objectives.

Stratagems are different too, with each army having only three of their own Stratagems outside the core Stratagems.

Not only do Combat Patrol matches promise to be beginner-friendly, they’re also a great mode to do a pickup game that doesn’t last too long when that’s all you’re feeling or all the time you have.

Full rules for each faction and all the Combat Patrol missions appear in the upcoming Leviathan book, while Combat Patrol indices with full model ability details will be released for free download when tenth edition is fullly, officially released.

About the Author
Dve (pronounced "Dave") is a long-time hobby gamer who writes about and plays board games, miniatures games, card games, and tabletop role-playing games. He also works part-time at a Friendly Local Gaming Store in northern Indiana.

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