In a game as vast as Warhammer 40,000 has become, there’s always been need for different ways to smash your pile of plastic against someone else’s pile of plastic in ritual combat. From full-on legions on each side to squad-based skirmishes, they’re still persisting into the game’s upcoming new edition — just with the re-working of simple idea to make the game easier to get into than before.
In the ninth edition of 40K, Games Workshop introduced “Combat Patrol” box sets. Replacing previous start-collecting kits for the various factions of Warhammer, they were all designed with the purpose of giving newcomers to the game or a given faction a cheaper, play-legal, and fairly varied box of models equivalent to approximately 500 points, the smallest size of game in Warhammer 40K’s various scales. They were a way to get people a single box to start playing the game with, one that gave them the flavour of what any given faction in Warhammer did in a size that made it easier to learn.
It wasn’t perfect — as the ninth edition matured, there became the need to replace some factions’ Combat Patrol boxes with new or tweaked miniature loadouts, and some boxes would have strong advantages over others in a matchup if they included massive creatures or heavy vehicle units. And with the rise of alternate smaller-scale games and formats like squad-based spinoff Kill Team or the recently introduced “Boarding Actions” format, the need for a particularly balanced small-scale gametype became less relevant.
A new edition of 40K means attracting new players to Warhammer at large — and so Combat Patrol is making a return as specialised mode of play even more designed toward newcomers picking up a given box in the range and getting started. As detailed by Games Workshop in a new article today, Combat Patrol will have a very specific set of boundaries within the newly updated rules of Warhammer 40K’s 10th edition when it releases this summer. Unlike its current setup, Combat Patrol will use a specific army list made of the models found in each faction’s current Combat Patrol box, with one set of weapon and gear options, and a pared-down version of the included units rules specific to Combat Patrol games — including ways to balance out what used to be uneven matchups if, say, you’ve got a force of mostly infantry going up against a vehicle-heavy Combat Patrol.
Between this and a limited selection of alternative rule enhancements like special abilities for a hero unit or army-wide orders known in 40K as stratagems, it takes the already condensed version of Warhammer 40,000‘s new rules and simplifies them a step further, removing most but not all options for a new player so they can grapple with learning the rules of the game. And with there only typically being one Combat Patrol per faction available at any given time, you’re going to have a rough idea of what you’re going up against in a given matchup. It’s great for newcomers in a way the current system isn’t quite — it’s an isolated game format that doesn’t overwhelm them with the full scope of 40K’s core rules, and while some of the rules and unit abilities are limited in the format, they’re not completely different to the way they’d work in standard games in the system.
Even if you aren’t a newcomer to the hobby, the format provides an interesting chance to experiment with a faction you’re unfamiliar with — without the daunting prospect of committing to a massive force you might ultimately not enjoy playing. Combat Patrols, like much Warhammer these days, are still pretty pricey, coming in at $US160 ($222) — but with all of 10th edition’s rules being updated and available digitally for free from day one, that’s the only cost you’ll need to get started with 40K or with a new army, compared to spending magnitudes more as you would now. And if you are already a 40K player, this new version of Combat Patrol doesn’t suddenly erase all the ways you can already play small-scale skirmishes with your armies in the new edition; all the current options for points-restricted battles or specifically skirmish-sized formats like Boarding Actions will still persist into the new edition.
There’s still plenty of questions that remain about the new format — like if current Combat Patrols will be retired and re-introduced to include physical versions of their new specific rules and datasheets alongside the freely available digital versions, just how some of the available boxes with options to build units into alternative types will be locked into a singular list, or if there’ll be new boxes replacing the current generation entirely at some point. But with the evolution of Combat Patrol for the new edition, Games Workshop is at least talking like its heart is in the right place for making a way to get into 40K that’s as least-intimidating as possible, while not sacrificing the depth that will hopefully turn newcomers into long-term fans.
Warhammer 40,000‘s 10th Edition will release in June 2023 with the Leviathan starter box, pitting the Space Marines against the alien swarms of the Tyranids. The box will include, alongside the main core rules for the new edition, the rules and datasheets to use a selection of the Space Marine and Tyranid forces inside as new Combat Patrol forces, as well as in other standard play formats.
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Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.
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