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Models & Units

The Citadel miniatures used to play games of Warhammer 40,000 are referred to as ‘models’ in the rules that follow. Models represent a huge variety of troops, from noble Space Marines and brutal Orks to Warp-spawned Daemons. To reflect all their differences, each model has its own characteristics profile.

Warhammer 40,000 uses nine different characteristics to describe the various attributes of the different models. All but one of the characteristics are rated on a scale from 0 to 10. The exception is Armour Save (Sv), which can range from 2+ through 6+ to - (for models with no Armour Save).


Certain pieces of wargear or special rules can modify a model’s characteristics positively or negatively by adding to it (+1, +2, etc.), subtracting from it (–1, –2, etc.), multiplying it (×2, ×3, etc.) or even setting its value (1, 8, etc.). Attacks and Wounds are the only characteristics that can be raised above 10. A model’s Initiative cannot be modified below 1, and no other characteristic can be modified below 0.

Multiple Modifiers

If a model has a combination of rules or wargear that modify a characteristic, first apply any multipliers, then apply any additions or subtractions, and finally apply any set values. For example, if a model with Strength 4 has both ‘+1 Strength’ and ‘double Strength’, its final Strength is 9 (4×2=8, 8+1=9). If a model with Strength 4 has both ‘+1 Strength’ and ‘Strength 8’, its final Strength is 8 (ignore +1 Strength and set it at 8).

Weapon Skill (WS)

This characteristic defines the close combat skill a warrior possesses. The higher the characteristic, the more likely the model is to hit an opponent in close combat. An Imperial Guardsman (a trained human warrior) has Weapon Skill 3, whilst a superhuman Space Marine might have Weapon Skill 4, Weapon Skill 5 or possibly even higher!

Ballistic Skill (BS)

This shows how accurate a warrior is with ranged weapons of all kinds, from pistols firing blazing bolts of plasma to earth-shaking battle cannons. The higher this characteristic is, the easier a creature finds it to hit targets with shooting attacks. An Imperial Guardsman has Ballistic Skill 3, but a hardened Militarum Tempestus Scion has Ballistic Skill 4.

Strength (S)

Strength gives a measure of how physically mighty a warrior is. An exceptionally puny creature might have Strength 1, while a Tyranid Carnifex has Strength 9. Humans have Strength 3.

Toughness (T)

This is a measure of a model’s ability to resist physical damage and pain, and it reflects such factors as the resilience of a creature’s flesh, hide or skin. The tougher a model is, the better it can withstand an enemy’s blows. The gnarled and leathery hide of an Ork grants it Toughness 4, but an unyielding monster such as a Carnifex has an incredible Toughness of 6!

Wounds (W)

This characteristic tells us how much damage a creature can take before it dies (or is so badly hurt that it can’t fight any more – which amounts to pretty much the same thing). Most human-sized models have a Wounds characteristic of 1. Large monsters and mighty heroes are often able to withstand several Wounds that would slay a smaller being, and so have 2 Wounds, 3 Wounds or even more.

Initiative (I)

This represents the swiftness of a creature’s reactions. Models with a low Initiative characteristic (like Orks, with Initiative 2) are slow-witted, while models with a high Initiative characteristic (for example Genestealers, with Initiative 6) react far more quickly. In close combat, Initiative dictates the order in which creatures strike.

Attacks (A)

This shows the number of times a model attacks during close combat. Most warriors and creatures have an Attacks characteristic of 1, so they will normally make one attack each in close combat, although some elite troops, monsters or heroes may be able to strike several times and have Attacks 2, Attacks 3 or more.

Leadership (Ld)

Leadership reveals how courageous, determined and self-controlled a model is. The higher the value, the more reliable the model under pressure. A creature with a low Leadership value is very unruly or cowardly, to say the least! Elite forces, such as Space Marines, have Leadership 8 or higher, whilst cowardly troops, such as Gretchin, have Leadership 5 or less.

Armour Save (Sv)

A warrior’s Armour Save gives it a chance to avoid harm when it is struck or shot. Most models have an Armour Save based on what kind of armour they are wearing, so this characteristic may be improved if they are equipped with better armour. Other creatures may receive a natural save from having thick bony plates or a chitinous shell. Unlike other characteristics, the lower an Armour Save is, the better. A model can never have an Armour Save better than 2+.

Characteristic Profiles

Every model in Warhammer 40,000 has a profile that lists the values of its characteristics. You can find these profiles in a variety of Games Workshop publications, including codexes.

Space Marine444414183+
Ork Boy423412276+

In the example profiles above, both the Ork and the Space Marine have Weapon Skill and Toughness 4, and they both have 1 Wound, which is the norm for man-sized creatures. The Ork has a higher Attacks characteristic, representing its great ferocity in close combat, but when it comes to Ballistic Skill, Strength, Initiative, Leadership and Armour Save, the Space Marine is superior.

The Space Marine’s Ballistic Skill of 4 means that he will hit more often when shooting. In hand-to-hand combat, his greater Strength value gives the Space Marine a better chance of killing the Ork, and his superior Initiative means that he gets to strike first. The Space Marine has a Leadership of 8, which is slightly higher than the average. The Space Marine’s technologically advanced (and thicker) armour gives him another marked advantage over the Ork.

Obviously, a single Ork is no match for a Space Marine when fighting one-on-one, but as Orks are inevitably found in large numbers, they are still lethal opponents, even for the superhuman Space Marines!

Zero-level Characteristics

Some creatures have been given a 0 for certain characteristics, which means that they have no ability whatsoever in that field (the same is also occasionally represented by a ‘–’).

A model with Weapon Skill ‘0’ is incapacitated; they are hit automatically in close combat and cannot strike any blows. A model with no Attacks cannot strike any blows in close combat. A warrior with an Armour Save of ‘–’ has no armour save at all. If at any point, a model’s Strength, Toughness or Wounds are reduced to 0, it is removed from play as a casualty.

Other Important Information

In addition to its characteristics profile, each model will have a unit type, such as Infantry or Monstrous Creature, which we discuss in the Unit Types section. It might also have an additional save of some kind, representing any special armour or mystical protection it might have, it could be carrying one or more shooting or Melee weapons or might have one or more special rules. Don’t worry about any of this for now – for the moment, it’s enough that you know to look for these aspects of the model.

Vehicle Characteristics

In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, there are many tanks, war machines and other combat vehicles, both human-built and alien. To reflect the many differences between creatures of flesh and blood and constructs of adamantium and Warp-forged metal, vehicles have many different rules and their own set of characteristics. Vehicle characteristics are described in the vehicles section.

Forming a Unit

The models that make up your Warhammer 40,000 army must be organised into ‘units’.


Warriors tend to band together to fight in squads, teams, sections or similarly named groups – individuals do not normally go wandering off on their own on the battlefields of the 41st Millennium for obvious reasons! In Warhammer 40,000, we represent this by grouping models together into units. A unit usually consists of several models that have banded together, but a single, powerful model, such as a lone character, a tank, a war engine or a rampaging monster, is also considered to be a unit in its own right.

Unit Coherency

Units fight in loose groups with gaps between each model. This gives the troopers (or the alien enemies of Humanity) the freedom to move over difficult terrain quickly, and enables them to take advantage of such things as minor folds in the ground, scrub, and other small features, to shelter from enemy fire. The different elements of the unit have to stay together to remain an effective fighting force. This is detailed more fully in the Movement section.

Models and Base Sizes

The rules in this book assume that models are mounted on the base they are supplied with. Sometimes, a player may have models in his collection on unusually modelled bases. Some models aren’t supplied with a base at all. In these cases (which are, in all fairness, relatively few and far between), you should always feel free to mount the model on a base of appropriate size if you wish, using models of a similar type as guidance.



 Q: What does ‘base contact’ or ‘base-to-base contact’ mean? Are two models in base contact if one is on a step, and their bases are not in (and cannot be put in) physical contact? Or if they are more separated than that e.g. on different levels, where a charge distance is sufficient for the charging model to reach the level containing the other unit, but it cannot be placed on the level above?
An element of common sense is required here. If they’re only fractionally apart due to the vagaries of scenery they count as being in base contact. However, though models on different levels of a building can be locked in combat with one another, they will not be considered in base contact with one another for the purposes of special rules or equipment that require models to be in base contact to take effect.
 Q: How do you handle situations where you are attempting to charge a model that is on top of something, where there is no room for a model to be in base contact?
The ‘Wobbly Model Syndrome’ rule applies – place the model as near as possible, and keep a note of its actual position. It is assumed to be in base contact with the other model.
 Q: In rules that say ‘within X inches’, do you mean wholly within or partially within?
Partially within, unless specifically stated otherwise.
 Q: What are the official rules regarding specific base sizes for specific models (if any)?
The rules assume that models are mounted on the base they are supplied with, but it’s entirely fine to mount them on whichever base you think is appropriate. Sometimes, a player may have models in their collection on unusually modelled bases. Some models aren’t supplied with a base at all. In these cases you should always feel free to mount the model on a base of appropriate size if you wish, using models of a similar type as guidance.
 Q: Can any part of a model intentionally hang off the edge of the table?
No part of a model may hang over the edge of the battlefield, except for parts that are explicitly ignored while checking line of sight (e.g. the wings or tail of a non-vehicle model).
 Q: When I am using ‘long’ or ‘oval’ Cavalry/Bikes/Monstrous Creatures’ bases, am I allowed to pivot the base on the spot to gain additional movement like vehicles would?
When making a move, you have to take into account how far all parts of the model have moved. Or to put that another way, trying to come up with a way of making a move that allows a model to move ‘further’ than its maximum movement distance is illegal. It is not allowed for a model to move 6" towards or away from something, and end up more than 6" closer to or further away from it!
 Q: Please confirm if a model may never be in coherency unless the model’s entire unit has unit coherency.
A model cannot be in coherency unless its entire unit is in coherency. Coherency is determined when a unit has finished moving, not during the move.
 Q: What is the vertical firing arc for shooting from Flyers, and how is this split between targets above and below the shooter?
Assume that weapons can swivel 90° vertically – 45° upwards and 45° downwards.
 Q: With regard to Bike and Artillery models, I measure from their weapons when they are shooting, and to their bases when they are shot at. Is this correct?
When Artillery models fire, range is measured from the barrel of the gun on the model. When Bike models fire, range is measured from the base. When firing at Artillery or Bike models, range is measured to the base – if they have one – or the hull.
 Q: Warhammer 40,000: The Rules states that line of sight can be drawn from any part of the model (not including wings, tail, etc.) to the intended target. Can my model’s foot truly be used as a line of sight starting point?
For simplicity and ease of play, the rules state that ‘For one model to have line of sight to another, you must be able to trace a straight, unblocked line from its body (the head, torso, arms or legs) to any part of the target’s body.’ If you wish, you and your opponent may agree that models are only allowed to draw line of sight from the model’s head, or the closest equivalent on the model.
 Q: Do a Flyer’s wings and tail count as part of its hull? (e.g. If you can only see a wing can you shoot at it? If you are only in range of the wing can you shoot at or charge it? When hovering, can the wing get you Linebreaker if it is within 12" of the board edge?)
Yes, a Flyer’s wings and tail are considered part of the hull in all respects.