CQB: Draft Rules for 8th Edition Zone Mortalis

A recurring theme of this blog, in addition to my fondness for Space Elves in all their various forms, is that I rather like the void war aspects of 40K. Which means Zone Mortalis is right up my alley – lots of terrain, small armies that don’t involve a half-dozen KR cases, and blowing a hole in the side of an enemy starship to take out it’s reactor core. Really, what’s not to love.

Recently, someone on the Independent Character’s Facebook group had asked if anyone had done up rules for Zone Mortalis in 8th Edition. I had rigged up some rules for them for the doors, which needed to be translated from the old Armor Value system, and I thought to myself “Why not just come up with an 8th Ed. adaptation, how hard could it be?”

Turns out, harder than I expected.

The thing is, there are tons of rules that existed in 7th that no longer exist. Sentences like “Ordinance weapons cause Pinning”, while a veteran 40K player could tell you what that means, have absolutely no meaning in 8th Edition. And you can’t use shorthand for things like “Rending”, because for new players, “Rending” doesn’t exist. So there’s definitely a lot of converting and explaining and approximation that has to be done.

And so, probably a month out from when I started, I’ve got something passably in Draft form.

I call it CQB for “Close Quarters Battle”, because frankly, Zone Mortalis is an absurd name.

Where to Find It

Here’s a direct link to the PDF.

If you want more than that, the Markdown files I used to build the PDF are found in the Variance Hammer GitHub repository. That’s a useful place, if you’re of an IT/Programming bent, to suggest improvements, etc. And yes, there will almost certainly be typos, spelling errors, etc.

How Can I Help?

Playtest it! Suggest new rules! Additions! Expansions! Whatever you like. Feel free to get in touch with me for your feedback, either on the aforementioned GitHub repository, or via one of our many, many ways of using social media, including:

  • Email: variancehammer@gmail.com
  • Twitter: @VarianceHammer
  • Facebook: www.facebook.com/variancehammer

Or just leave a comment below.

Guiding Philosophy

This sounds somewhat pretentious, but it’s something that I think is important with fan-made rulesets: is the goal to “fix” the system, or just adapt it. Do you want to expand out on it?

For this project, the goal was to build a modular set of rules that would do a little bit of both. The “Core Rules” are as close to the original rules as possible, with the absolute minimum of creative interpretation. Where it occurs, I’ve noted it – as well as my reasoning why. From there, both the “Optional Rules” and “Expansions” are potentially a little more freeform – though they aren’t at the moment, and have room for riffing off other settings, adding new rules, etc. Similarly, new “Missions and Stratagems” can be made, though with one exception at the moment it’s straight out of the original rules.

One important note is I’m trying to make this fun and workable, not balanced. If you end up running a CQB tournament…well, I really wouldn’t.

Playtesting So Far

These rules are brand new, so they haven’t had a huge amount of play-testing behind them. I did get some games in with a member of the local club, pictures of which are below along with some of our experiences.


Psykers are a big damned deal. An Eldar Farseer (admittedly Eldrad, but he wasn’t using his Eldrad-y powers at this particular juncture) took out two doors in a single psychic phase using Smite and Executioner. Even nerfed, multi-casted Smites are still a serious threat to doors in a way that doesn’t feel right. I’ve said that it’s not fun to be stuck behind doors, so I’ve made them killable (they’re calibrated to be just about as killable as they were last edition to a meltagun shot). But auto-hitting mortal wounds trivializes them. So I’ve given them a 2+ Ignore Mortal Wound save. Your Space Wizard can take down a door with their mind, but it’s far from certain.

And then sometimes, a Contemptor is waiting for them on the other side.

Unprepared Armies

Out of curiosity, one of the 25 Power Level forces I used was one I characterized as being unprepared for boarding – a unit of Space Wolf Wolf Guard Terminators and a small unit of Blood Claws. Importantly, they were carrying Power Axes, Krak Grenades and Combi-Plasma. The Combi-Plasma and Power Axes dealt with doors well enough, but the Blood Claws relying on Krak Grenades, Bolt Pistols and Chainswords had a tough time of it, and only got through the door after two combined rounds of shooting and close combat. That…honestly seems right to me. The doors shouldn’t be impossible to get through with conventional weapons, as that goes against the spirit of 8th Edition, but that doesn’t mean it should be easy. And that delay meant they weren’t in position to help their Wolf Guard Battle Leader when he came into contact with some hostile Incubi…

I have added a stratagem though, for armies that don’t have widely prevalent breaching appropriate weapons, that should ease that burden a bit – at the cost of a command point, which in CQB is intentionally a resource in short supply.

It’s Bloody as Hell

8th Edition is a bloody edition. CQB makes that worse – small units, close quarters and mostly infantry makes things pretty brutal. We used the rules that made all 6’s to wound on Strength 4+ weapons hit at AP -3 (the approximation of Rending) and that did mean things like Tactical Squads are genuinely deadly. Another of the armies I took, a pretty modest Imperial Fist force with a Captain, an Apothecary, a Contemptor and a Tactical Squad was able to run pretty roughshod over some Eldar thanks to sheer weight of fire.

It may be worth not using that rule if you want to tone things down a little, or be generous with granting some units armor that ignores it (possibly the makings of a new stratagem…).

It’s Complicated

7th Edition was…granular. For better or worse, you had to hold a fair number more rules in your head. An adaptation of a 7th Edition supplement brings a lot of that granularity back – and important, does overlay some “universal” rules (like the Strength 4 rules mentioned above) that aren’t on a unit’s Codex entry. I think with practice those will become easier to deal with, but I’d expect some time spent picking them up. I’m not really sure there’s a way around that without stripping away far more of the ruleset than I’m really comfortable with.

So there you have it – a first swing at some draft rules for boarding actions, subterranean assaults, etc. Please feel free to give me your feedback, and let me know if you’ve played any games. For those who are interested, the terrain in the pictures above is the Deadbolt’s Derelict set, reviewed here and here.

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  1. Honestly, I wouldn’t worry too much about the last bit, that it’s complicated. 40K has a long tradition of supplements for alternate settings, virtually all of which add more complexity to the base game. And that goes double for the ones that are designed for smaller forces.


  2. Interesting. I want to setup a ZM board so bad. One of the players at our local club has one and it’s always a treat to play.
    Who’s Zam board are you using it’s not FW is it?


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