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Fighting a Battle

Each game of Legions Imperialis represents a battle fought during the galaxy-shattering war known as the Horus Heresy. The expansive history of that era serves as a perfect background for your hobby, from assembling and painting a grand force to recreating some of the most infamous conflicts fought during the Warmaster's rebellion.

This section of the book focuses on setting up and fighting a battle. There are various types of battles you can play, some more codified than others. Here, we'll look at the basics which apply to all games of Legions Imperialis and take an in-depth look at Matched Play, which is a style of play intended to present a level playing field for all players. Open Play and Narrative Play, two alternative styles of play, will also be touched upon.

Regardless of the style of game being played, all Legions Imperialis battles have two constants: a Mission and a battlefield.

The Mission

Every battle that is fought has objectives, whether that is as simple as destroying your opponent's Army to more complex goals, such as capturing key locations or retrieving and escaping with vital information.

These objectives are determined by a Mission. A Mission describes how and where on the table players set up their armies and how victory can be achieved. If relevant, it will also include any special rules which apply to the battle and any restrictions on Army building. For more detail on Missions, see page 104.

The Battlefield

The battlefield is where a game of Warhammer: The Horus Heresy - Legions Imperialis takes place. It represents one of the countless planets and locales on which the catastrophic civil war was fought. Battlefields can range from apocalyptic visions of destruction, such as ruined cities or broken industrial complexes, to open wastelands wracked by radiation storms or verdant fields that will soon be scarred by the ravages of war. The planets of the galaxy are staggeringly diverse, meaning battles can be fought on any kind of battlefield you can imagine.

In rules terms, the surface on which a game of Warhammer: The Horus Heresy - Legions Imperialis takes place is referred to as the 'battlefield', with each of its edges referred to as a 'battlefield edge'. Each deployment map will also highlight a battlefield edge, or part of one or more battlefield edges, for each deployment zone - this is the battlefield edge of the player who deploys in that deployment zone. In general, the rules and Missions of Legions Imperialis are written with a 5' x 4' battlefield in mind; some Missions might stipulate another battlefield size to use.

Of course, players can use whatever sized battlefield they have available to them, be it smaller ones such as a kitchen table or a far larger one in a local gaming club upon which they can play massive battles. If players wish to play on a non-standard table size, then any measurements for factors such as deployment or objectives should be adjusted to reflect this.

Battlefield Terrain

There are few battles that take place over wide-open, featureless plains. Although games of Legions Imperialis can take place on battlefields without terrain, the addition of even just a few pieces makes for a much more interesting game. As part of the preparation for the battle, players will need to set up their battlefield terrain - this is always done before any Detachments are deployed on the battlefield and before players determine who deploys where.

There are a variety of ways that terrain can be deployed on the battlefield:

  • Players can divide the table into quarters and deploy D3+1 areas of terrain in each quarter, with players taking turns deploying a piece of terrain, starting with the winner of a roll-off. For Structures, it is suggested that several individual Structures count as one area of terrain for the purposes of deploying terrain.

  • Players can collaborate, placing various areas of terrain from those available to them to create an interesting battlefield.

  • One player can set up the entire battlefield in a manner of their choosing. Then, when it comes to rolling to see who has control of the battlefield (see page 101), the player who did not set up the terrain automatically gains control of it.

Regardless of the method used, terrain should encourage tactical decisions and movement amongst armies. The addition of a cluster of Structures along with a few areas of Obstructing terrain and/or other line of sight blocking terrain will greatly influence the flow of battle, restricting avenues of movement and providing tactical advantages and disadvantages to Detachments. The hobby section of this book includes a few examples of Legions Imperialis battlefields to inspire you.

Matched Play

Matched Play is intended for games where both armies are built to an equal points total, perfect for those wishing to introduce a competitive element to their games or for playing against opponents you do not regularly play against. As such, Matched Play is perfect for pick-up games in your local gaming store as well as for use in tournaments and leagues.

A battle fought using the Matched Play rules is generally fought between two sides, most commonly with one player per side. Each player builds their Army to a points value agreed upon by the two players.

The most common points value of an Army in Legions Imperialis is 3,000 points, and the rules have been written with this in mind. However, the rules are designed so points values can be scaled up or down, meaning players are free to determine the points value between them. The higher the points value of the armies, the longer a game will take. Battlefield size may also have to be adjusted; for games of 2,500 points or fewer, a 4' x 4' table is recommended, while a larger table might be required for higher points totals, such as a 6' x 4' table for games of more than 3,500 points.

If one side includes more players than the other, then the total points value of both sides should be equal, meaning the side with more players will have fewer points to spend on each individual player's armies. Once a points value has been determined, each player musters their Army as described on page 126.

Open Play and Narrative Play

Although Matched Play is the most commonly used form of play in Legions Imperialis, it is by no means the only one. Two alternative examples are known as Open Play and Narrative Play.

In Open Play, players simply pick what models they want to use, place them on the battlefield and have a good time playing against their opponent. In general, Open Play doesn't concern itself with the points values of armies, and the Mission is whatever players decide between themselves. In other words, the only restriction in Open Play is your own imagination.

Narrative Play focuses on the story, taking inspiration from the rich background of the Horus Heresy. In the majority of cases for Narrative Play players will choose a Narrative Mission, which will list the point values for armies, deployment rules and victory conditions. These Missions will often place restrictions and guidelines on how players build their armies to better reflect the story the Mission is portraying. It is similar in many ways to Matched Play, but the key difference is that the tale is placed at the battle's heart - not every Narrative Mission will be fair, and sometimes one side or another will be outnumbered and/or outgunned. The Mission objectives will be tailored towards this, creating a thrilling game where players forge tales that will echo across the years. Players can, of course, design their own Narrative Missions, using the official examples as guidance.

Regardless of what method of play you use, the purpose of Warhammer: The Horus Heresy - Legions Imperialis is for everyone to enjoy themselves - if that is happening, then you're on the right path.

Selecting a Mission

Once all players have assembled their armies, they will need to decide upon a Mission. Each Mission determines the deployment zones of both armies, the Primary Objective for both players and, if necessary, how Objective markers are deployed on the battlefield.

To determine a Mission, one player rolls a D6 to determine which column from the Mission table that follows is in use. Then the opposing player rolls a D6 to determine which Mission from that column is being played, comparing the result against the table rows.

Alternatively, players can simply choose a Mission from the table, so long as all players agree.

Second D6 Result First D6 Result: 1-3 First D6 Result: 4-6
1 Confrontation Flanking Action
2 Seize and Hold Retrieval
3 No Man’s Land Forward Push
4 Hold Ground Conquest
5 Stronghold Assault All Out War
6 Devastation Point Assault

Descriptions of each Mission, along with deployment maps, can be found on page 104.

The Battlefield

Deployment Map

Once a Mission has been determined, the battlefield is set up; terrain is deployed as described on page 99. The Missions presented in this book assume a battlefield size of 5' x 4', and all deployment maps are written with this in mind. However, players are free to agree amongst themselves the battlefield size, adjusting deployment zones and Objective marker placement as needed.

Players must then determine who has 'control of the battlefield'. To do this, both players roll off once terrain has been set up, with the winner of the roll-off choosing which player has control of the battlefield. The player with control of the battlefield chooses a deployment zone, with the other deployment zone going to the opposing player.

Once deployment zones have been chosen, players deploy any Objective markers, as detailed in the Mission's deployment map.

Objective Markers

In Legions Imperialis, places of vital importance are represented by Objective markers. Objective markers can take many different forms, from simple coloured tokens or bases to custom terrain pieces built to match a player's Army.

Unless otherwise stated, an Objective marker in Legions Imperialis should be represented by a token or base 32mm in diameter. A model can end its move in base contact with an Objective marker and can move through it without issue but cannot end its move overlapping one. Regardless of their appearance, Objective markers do not block line of sight.

When deploying Objective markers, the centre of the base is used when measuring - if an Objective marker needs to be placed 18" from a battlefield edge, the centre of the base must be 18" away. During a battle, any measurement to an Objective marker is measured from the edge of the marker. Objective markers cannot be deployed within an area of Impassable terrain, nor can they be deployed overlapping a Structure.

When deployed some Objective markers will be deployed outside of either player's deployment zone. Objective markers outside either player's deployment zone are referred to as neutral objectives. Neutral objectives often give different Victory Points when captured, depending on the Mission being played.

Determine Secondary Objective

Once the battlefield has been set up, both players determine a Secondary Objective for themselves (or one Secondary Objective per side for more than two players). Each player has a separate Secondary Objective that can be different from their opponent's.

To determine a Secondary Objective, both players roll two D6 on the table below, re-rolling a dice if duplicates are rolled - they do this until they have two unique numbers. They then compare the results against the Secondary Objectives table to determine which objectives are available to them.

Once this is done, both players secretly choose one of the two Secondary Objectives available to them - the other is discarded. Once both players have chosen their Secondary Objective, they reveal their own to their opponent simultaneously.

Result Secondary Objective
1 Carnage
2 Vital Intel
3 Control the Battlefield
4 Breakthrough
5 Plant the Standard
6 Defiant


After the battlefield has been set up and all objectives have been determined, the armies are deployed. Players take it in turns, starting with the player who has control of the battlefield, to deploy all Detachments within a single Formation - if a player runs out of Formations to deploy and the other has not fully deployed, then they deploy all of their remaining Formations. Once both players have deployed their armies, the battle begins.


Some special rules state that a Detachment can be deployed in Reserve. This means the Detachment in question does not start on the battlefield and instead is placed to one side - the Detachment is referred to as being in Reserve. To do this, the controlling player simply states that a Detachment that can be deployed in Reserve is doing so, which is done whenever that Detachment would normally be deployed upon the battlefield.

Detachments in Reserve can arrive on the battlefield during the course of the game. How they arrive depends on the special rule that placed them in Reserve; Detachments with the Flyer or Drop Pod special rule can arrive in the first round, while Detachments with the Deep Strike special rule can arrive in the second round onwards. In general, the rule in question will state how and where the Detachment can arrive from. If it does not, then the Detachment can move onto the battlefield from the second round onwards - place the Detachment's models in base contact with the battlefield edge, after which the Detachment can complete its activation as normal (i.e., move if its Order allows, etc.).

Detachments in Reserve do not count as destroyed and are counted for the purposes of determining a Formation's Break Point (i.e., the total number of models in the Formation during Army creation is used, not the total that were deployed on the battlefield). If a Formation becomes Broken while one or more Detachments within it are in Reserve then those Detachments do not have to take a Morale check but are classified as Broken when they arrive on the battlefield.

Detachments in Reserve must be issued an Order as normal and activate when their Detachment does. When activated, Detachments in Reserve can do nothing and thus stay in Reserve, or arrive on the battlefield if their rules allow. As previously stated, Detachments that are in Reserve must be activated after all Detachments on the battlefield, unless it is arriving on the battlefield.

Unless instructed otherwise, if a Detachment in Reserve has not arrived on the battlefield by the end of the fourth round, it counts as destroyed, can no longer arrive and can take no further part in the battle. The sole exception to this are models with the Flyer special rule - as Flyers move into and out of Reserves during the course of the battle, they are not destroyed as described previously. Any Detachments Embarked upon a Flyer Transport, however, must have arrived on the battlefield by the end of the fourth round.

Battle Begins

When the battle begins, any effects or special rules which happen at the start of the battle take place. If a player has more than one effect which takes place at this time, they can choose the order in which these effects happen. If both players have effects that take place at the start of the battle, the player with control of the battlefield resolves their effects first.

The first round then begins.

Game Length

Unless instructed otherwise, Legions Imperialis Matched Play Missions last five rounds.

Determine Victor

Once the battle ends, both players determine the total number of Victory Points (VPs) they have earned over the battle. The player with the most VPs is victorious. If both players have the same number of VPs, the battle is a draw.

Scoring Victory Points

In Legions Imperialis, VPs are earned both during the battle and at the end. Most Missions require the capturing of Objective markers (as follows), with a player scoring VPs at the end of each round for each Objective marker they control. In some missions, different Objective markers are worth different numbers of VPs, meaning some are more lucrative than others. The best generals know when to mount an offensive and when to defend their captured assets; master both and victory will be yours.

In addition to VPs earned through capturing and holding Objective markers, each player's Secondary Objective offers additional ways for them to score VPs at the end of the battle.

Contested vs. Uncontested Objectives

Many Missions will reference Uncontested Objectives when awarding Victory Points. If an Objective marker is Contested then it does not award Victory Points in such circumstances. Note, an Objective is not Contested if the controlling player has at least double the Tactical Strength within 3" of it as their opponent and thus it would count as an Uncontested Objective and score VPs. As such it is important to determine if an Objective is Contested or not when both players have models within 3" of it.

Capturing Objective Markers

During the course of the battle, both armies can capture Objective markers scattered across the battlefield.

During the Calculate Victory Points stage of the End phase players determine if any Objective markers have been captured. To capture an Objective marker, a player must have at least one model within 3" of the marker. If the opposing player has no models within 3" of the same marker, the player captures the Objective and is said to be in control of it. Once a player has gained control of an Objective marker, they remain in control of it until the opposing player captures it - they do not need to leave models within 3" of the marker.

If both players have models within 3" of an Objective marker then players should calculate the total Tactical Strength of their models within 3" of an Objective. Each model's Tactical Strength is determined by its type, as shown in the table below:

Type Tactical Strength
Infantry 5
Cavalry and Walkers 3
Vehicles and Super-heavy vehicles 2
Knights 1
Titans 0

If one player has at least double the Tactical Strength within 3" of a marker compared to their opponent, that player captures the Objective or retains control of it if they had previously captured it.

Otherwise, the Objective is referred to as a Contested Objective and its status does not change - if it was uncaptured it remains uncaptured, or if it was controlled by a player, it remains under their control.

Models with the Flyer special rule cannot capture or contest Objectives and are ignored when determining who controls an Objective.