40K: The “Other” Game Modes

The are THREE ways to play – give the other play styles a shot!

Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition has been a huge boon to my motivation to build, paint and play. I also know a lot of players are really focusing on the Matched Play aspects of the game – this is okay! It makes the most sense as the “baseline” and most fair way to play the game. But if you’re only playing Matched Play games you’re missing out on the other 2/3rds of the game options.

Open & Narrative Games

Open Play games are actually pretty fun. It’s a great way to get wacky! While that might not be for everyone if you approach Open Play with the right mindset you can actually have a blast with it. Plus it allows you to bring units you might not normally get a chance at using. It’s lighter on some of the restrictions (like summoning new units) so it’s a good way to see what the game plays like without anything “pumping the brakes.”

You can use that as an opportunity to actually create fun custom scenarios. For example, I’m pretty sure everyone loves the “Alamo” scene in Star Ship Troopers – why not use Open Play to recreate that! Throw the “Force Org” and “Balance” to the wind and just enjoy the pure spectacle. I would still play with an objective like “X number of the defender’s models have to survive past round 6” or something along those lines. Maybe you limit the attackers to just Melee units. Those are the types of games that Open Play allows you to bring to the table.

Narrative Play games allow for the possibility of you creating your own saga or epic journey. These types of games help to stretch your creative muscles and can really help players get into the lore of the game. Maybe you start with a lowly Chaos Space Marine Champion and follow his ascent to Daemonhood. Or maybe you follow the story of a force trying to slow down the never ending tide of the Greenskin Horde. Linked games are a blast to play in and can “up the stakes” in your game more than just the drama of die rolls. All it takes is a little bit of thought about why your armies would be facing off and you can add some narrative depth to your games.

You can also use the Narrative Play & Open Play games to recreate battles from the lore. Anything from the Battle for the Emperor’s Palace from the Horus Heresy all the way to something more recent like the Battle of the Baal system. That’s the fun and flexibility of those “other” ways to play. Also, don’t discount the Battlezones either!


Battlezones add a ton of new stuff to the rules. Now, these are all optional rules but it where you can find all the cool stuff like Nightfighting, extra Stratagems, crazy Psychic Shenanigans (Psychic Maelstrom), and the massively epic Battlezone:Fire and Fury. Fighting to the death while the planet beneath your feet cracks and slowly dies? Yeah – that’s one heck of a way to go out.

Also as part of the Battlezone are the other game modes that are more suited to Open and Narrative games. You could try these in Matched Play (you should try them actually) but I think they work fantastically as a series of linked games. Planetstrike represents the initial encounter. Cities of Death is when the battle reaches the deadly street-fighting in the cities. And finally Stronghold Assault is the last battle where one side has been pushed back to their fortresses and the enemy is knocking on the door. You can also sprinkle in some  Death from the Skies as both sides attempt to establish air superiority. That sounds like an awesome campaign setup in my book!


Some of the best games I’ve participated in were massive multiplayer games of 40k. I’m not just talking about games formerly known as Apocalypse. I’m talking about folks taking their 1500-2000 point armies and playing multiplayer games of 40k. 2v2, 3v3, … 8v8, you get the idea. Do those game typically break down somewhere around turn 3 and one half of the board is skipping ahead while the other half is still resolving CC? YES. But you know what, it’s a ton of fun. There is something that is just fun about getting together with a bunch of like-minded players and cutting lose with 40k. Multiplayer games also have the benefit of always having someone around to chat with, witness dice rolls, and share the good and bad times. And if something big and explodey happens, even better!

Warhammer 40,000 8th also supports 1v1v1v1 style Multiplayer games. There is even a special scenario called Carnage that you can use to help you with determining how the game will flow. It’s worth attempting just for the crazy that ensues!

So when you get to a point where Matched Play’s new is starting to wear off and you want to stretch your other gaming muscles, try the “Other” Game play modes – you might just rekindle your love of playing!


Have you gotten any of the “Other” Game modes in yet? What were you impressions of them?

  • Karru

    I have nothing against Open or Narrative Play and I love the Battlezones to death. Personally Matched Play clicks with me the best and it is the same with my group as well. It makes the arranging much easier and we get to bring what we want easily. We just use points to get the “structure” right, even if we deviate from Force Org for example.

    More often than not, we actually mix both Narrative and Matched Play. We use the points and rules of Matched Play, but then come up with our scenarios or missions. That way we keep things interesting but no one will feel like they got F’d by the Narrative aspect.

    The Battlezones are great fun. Night Fight is an absolute favourite of our group. The others are fun as well, but we all missed the Night Fighting rules of old. 1000pts armies with certain “restrictions” made that mission amazingly fun.

    Overall, 8th edition offers a lot for everyone. The tools for Open Play players and Narrative Players are in abundance. There are solid rules and missions for Matched Play and the greatest thing of all is that there are the old Supplements in the book. Planetstrike, Cities of Death, Stronghold Assault and Death From The Skies.

  • Jared Swenson

    I am actually really looking forward to giving battlezones and planetstrike and cityfight a shot. I think they could be good fun.

  • ShasOFish

    The changes in nightfighting (to hit penalties, instead of cover) make it an active liability to play a shooting faction. It’s especially egregious for the Tau, when it used to be almost every suit had a blacksun filter (ignore nightfighting), and tanks could buy it on the cheap.

    • MechBattler

      Oh no! Tau can’t hit perfectly all the time?!

    • YetAnotherFacelessMan

      So, what you’re saying is that night fighting is actually something that matters and seriously changes the way you’d play? Wow. Man. That seems like something that might actually come up, then! Like, if the game mode didn’t effect you at all previously, then it might as well have not existed, except as a further penalty to your opponent.

      Of course, if you’re like “nuh uh! My tau optics are superior to your space marine optics in every way and night fighting shouldn’t affect me!” you could just play a regular game and say it’s at night.

    • Mathew G. Smith

      It’s a liability to shooting armies. So… operating as explicitly intended, then? The old version not having any practical effect was a bug, not a feature.

      The old version was always absurd anyway, everybody but baseline IG and Orks canonically either has some kind of integrated night vision in their helmets or can just naturally see in the dark. Which ones had this reflected in the rules was completely arbitrary.

  • Defenestratus

    I’ll never played matched.


    • Witch Beatrice

      Tell me more i am intrigued. How did you play previous editions without tallying up your unit points and wargear upgrades?

      • Spacefrisian

        By being randomly matched?…Oh nvm.

      • Slite

        I’m actually curious about this too

  • Kyle Stillwagon

    Is no one even going to mention the chaos Marines belt fed bolt pistol?????

    • Slite

      Thats part of Battlezone (Bolt Pistols) right? The one where all Bolt Pistols are rapid-fire 6 but you can only fire them once per game. I love that one!