40K Tactics: Burning Flyers Out of the Skies

8th Edition is teaching old players new tricks – like how “template” weapons are much more useful.

8th Edition is a learning experience for us all.  It’s been decades since we’ve seen 40K get an overhaul this big and there is a lot of “unlearning” that existing players have to do. This is one of those interesting eras of the game when it may be easier on newcomers who have no rules-baggage to deal with and can just learn everything correctly right off the bat.

I’ve already hit upon a couple of key elements that are central tenets of the rules that seem totally alien to me – a 30 year player of 40K.  My personal cross to bear is forcing myself to fire pistols in the shooting phase for my units that are engaged in combat, then attacking with melee weapons later in the fight phase.  It’s totally correct but just feels UTTERLY ALIEN to the GW rules-heritage of the past 30 years.

But onto Flamers/Blasts

Half of mastering a new ruleset isn’t just learning the new rules, but erasing your previous pre-conceived notions and built up prejudices.  Flyers have been off limits to incoming fire from blast and template weapons for a while now.  It was an absolute rule, so really no one bothered doing “what-if” comparisons of the blast/template weapon stats versus flyers.

But 8th Edition has turned that on its head.  Not only have the template and blast weapons been removed from the game, pretty much anything can blaze away at units that can fly.  That’s already a funky enough concept to wrap your head around: “I fire the Hellhound at your Dakkajet”. But in many cases the ex-blast/template weapons aren’t only now able to target those pesky fast moving flying units – they are REALLY GOOD at knocking them off the table.

I’ve found that the combination of the multiple shots combined with the automatic hits of the ex-template weapons can really put the hurt on their targets.  I will often prefer to hit an opponent with a larger number of lower strength automatic hitting weapons, than a lower number of higher strength weapons.  The ex-template weapons are more reliable and the automatic hits removes one step in the process of hurting the bad guys.

Here’s an Example:

You want to knock down some pesky flyers flitting around the table, harassing your Eldar army. So you immediately reach for that top-shelf air-to-air fighter the Crimson Hunter – right?

It’s getting 4 S:8 shots at a range of 36″-48″ hitting on a 3+, with rerolls on failed to-wound rolls versus flyers.  Perfect right.  PEW PEW PEW and the bad flyer is sent to the ground in flames.

But let’s take a moment to consider the much-maligned in 7th Edition alternative – the Hemlock

Back in 7th, it had weapons that couldn’t target flyers at all and was generally a mess.  But in 8th – WATCH OUT!  It’s got Assault 2d3 S10 shots at an 18″ range – that automatically hit. That’s CRAZYTOWN! But then you note the Crimson Hunter outranges it by about 2 feet.  Remember the Hemlock moves 20-60″ with a 20″ Advance move and all it’s weapons are Assault.  It’s going to be in range.

This is only one example of needing to re-examine many units that function totally differently in 8th Edition. The Hellhound’s Inferno cannon is no slouch at knocking down flyers these days and it’s a bad idea to park any model you care about next to a Land Raider Redeemer.  Once you add in Forge World units it really gets nutty.  We just played a 8th edition mega battle with a Warhound’s Titan Inferno Gun that burned fully intact enemy flyers into molten slag every turn.  An 18″ Heavy 4d6 S:7 -3AP D:4 weapon that automatically hits is a true terror of the tabletop now.

~So crack open those datasheet books and look sharp – it’s a whole new world out there and the skies are deadlier than ever.


  • DVeight

    One has to wonder whether this is intended or is actually an unintended consequence. Where in the narrative do we see flamers bringing down fliers?

    • Michael Fifield

      indeed, in the history of warfare has any aircraft been shot down by a flamer?

      • Crablezworth

        In before predictable naysayers mocking the idea of contextual coherence in a game bacause psi fi and lasers bro! :p

        • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

          And Daemons and Dragons.

        • Ravingbantha

          The reason we can accept things like lasers, daemons, and dragons is because other things are still believable. Laser weapons and grav engines are easily explained through advancements in science. Dragons and daemons are possible, especially when dealing with a galaxy teaming with life.

          But physics is still physics, a flame weapon requires either a flammable target to catch on. With armored targets like a flyer, a flame weapon needs time to build up enough heat to do damage, much less destroy a flyer. But the speed at which they move, any flame of that sized, would be snuffed out.

          You can put all the sci-fi or fantasy stuff you want into a setting, but ignore certain things like basic physics, and your setting becomes absurd.

          • kevinharoun

            Flame weapon could shoot its fuel onto the target, so it keeps burning.

          • CloakingDonkey

            And yet I’m sure many of you have accepted flaming arrows to be completely legitimate in the past… and let’s not even talk about the feasibility of power armor, giant super tanks and titans… No amount of tech advancement makes that stuff work physically.

            So yes. Dragons and Demons and such. 😉

      • kevinharoun

        A flamer? They haven’t been built yet. So, really, who gives a fig what’s historical. The shoot prometheum gel that can go 500+ feet. Why not shoot down a flyer?

        • Ravingbantha

          Flamers were used in WWII

          • kevinharoun

            No, flamethrowers usng napalm were used. Flamers shoot who knows what so high it can take down low flying aircraft.

          • UnpluggedBeta

            The preferred AA weapon being a gout of flame isn’t nearly as cool as a bristling array of heavy guns, but I guess different strokes and all that jazz.

      • Lebowski1111111111

        well we do have what 38,000 more years to develop that technology.

        • Trey

          yet they still think swords are a good choice…. sigh.

          Using the “tech specs” in most of the books makes the IoM LESS capable than the US or Russian Military for the most part. I guess that’s why its grim/dark… Only the space ships are better really and that’s because we do not have any.

      • Morgrim

        By a weapon that we would consider a flamer? None that I know of. By tracer rounds that ignited the aircraft? LOTS. Early fighter planes were basically wood and canvas and extremely flamable.

    • Crablezworth

      Why do you hate fun! Now if you’ll excuse me my valkyrie needs to go fist fight a bastion.

    • Harthelion

      Forge the narrative :3

    • BrianDavion
    • BrianDavion
  • Crablezworth

    How you’ve attempted to spin one of the worst aspects of 8th edition into a “positive” is both commendable and equally absurd. It’s like saying everyone enjoys the warmth and glow of a dumpster fire.

    • kevinharoun

      If this is one of the worst aspects, 8th edition is doing just fine.

      Seriously. It’s future magic flame weapon. If small arms can bring down a plane, why not a flamer?

      • Foxdonut


        • euansmith

          As far as I am aware, flyers in 40k swoop around at tree top height (and that’s trees that have been burned down to the stump and then run over by a tank).

          I guess one could argue that the air defence environment in the grim darkness is so lethal, than anyone flying any higher would be instant toast.

          • ZeeLobby

            I mean the whole flier mechanic and it’s game interaction is just silly.

          • euansmith

            Indeed. The whole game has rather outgrown its heroic 28mm scale niche and is stumbling in to areas better suited to Epic.

          • ZeeLobby

            Yeah, and my fear is that with every release they just push it larger and larger…

          • zeno666

            Yeah, and that was along time ago.

          • Trey

            And always has been, flyers should not be in a game based on Company level size fights expect as off map support.

      • Scott Staten

        Go read Flight of the Intruder….. Small arms fire is very much a threat to aircraft performing ground attack missions

      • Drpx

        These are the same people who’ll go on for hours about shooting needing to be better than melee because muh realism. Never mind this being a setting where alien orgies created an evil god and spaceships fly through hell.

      • UnpluggedBeta

        Why stop there? Let’s get an 8.5 edition where bolt pistols are the preferred long range weapon and powerfists are ranged artillery while we’re at it.

  • sniperjack

    IMO Fly and Flame should negate each other.

    • Tiberius

      the problem is there are plenty of ‘ground’ based units with the fly key word. Like crisis suits or raiders

  • Fergie0044

    Ugh, this is so dumb. Never mind that we have jet fighter style aircraft that don’t fit the scale of the game or battlefield (even more so than other model types like artillery), but now we have flamer weapons shooting them down.

    • Thomson

      A bike would not fit the scale of the battlefield… it should have a move of 40… or do you think bikes in 40k go 15 mph?

      The ruleset is extremely abstract, with a logarithmic distance scale… otherwise you can’t play “realistically” at that scale.

      A 2nd world war tank guns basic engagement range was 500 yards. That would be at least 30 feet in 40k scale. A “realistic” battle would require a gym hall.

      • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

        Don’t forget tactical bias: most Imperial forces are accustomed to fighting in dense, hard terrain, like cities, self-contained environments, and in boarding action scenarios, so much of their weaponry, despite prodigious natural range, is wielded with an eye to minimizing risk of missing, misfiring, or causing collateral damage.

      • Fergie0044

        Yep, but for some things its easier to suspend my disbelief. This flyer nonsense not so much.

      • Trey

        500 yards is a bit short for anything after 1942.

        A US study found the average range for WW2 tank to tank combat between Jun-1944 and Dec-1944 was between 750 and 900 yards, with a mean of 840 yards. Engagement at ranges beyond 1300 m were uncommon (presumably because of the limited effective range of the most common US tank guns). Another study found the average range of a Western ETO tank battle was 785 yards(One yard is about 0.9144m)

    • kevinharoun

      Agreed. That’s where the problem lies. They shouldn’t be in the game in the first place.

      Since they are, they should be vulnerable like everything else.

    • zeno666

      I concur. Its so amazingly dumb that it has to be an oversight ruleswise.
      But like the re-roll before applying modifiers, I bet GW won’t admit it until the next edition.
      And judging from the many problems in this edition that one will be released next year.

      • Fergie0044

        Ummmm…how does this compare to re-rolls and mods? You may not like the re-roll and mods rules, but at least they are clearly laid out and seem to be exactly what GW intended, for better or worse.

        Meanwhile, this seems like someone left out a special ‘does not apply to flyers’ rule.

        • Doesn’t seems that way to me.

          • Fergie0044

            I suppose most flamers have low range while most flyers have very high movement.

      • EvilCheesypoof

        The rerolls situation is very intentional. Reroll before modifiers is so -1 to hit doesn’t accidentally buff you. (example: without that rule you could reroll to hit rolls of 1, roll a 2 and with -1 it’s a 1 now. So their ruling avoids that situation by making rerolls only work on natural dice rolls.)

        • Horus84cmd

          Yep. Certainly is. With the amount of re-rolling abilities flying round it would make them much more potent than they already are.

        • zeno666

          Easily fixed by adding “natural roll”.
          Like re-roll natural 1’s.
          But then again, that would be too straight and wouldn’t be fitting with the rest of this mess.

          • eMtoN

            You know there would be a debate on what “natural” means don’t you?

          • zeno666

            Haha, of course 🙂

  • Strange and weird fact: Hemlock’s Heavy D-scythes actually have 16″ range for some weird reason. Typo maybe?

    • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

      Make it feel more like a bigger D-Scythe, which is odd, but the most sensible reasoning, considering that the 7th ed version was a small blast that needed scatter rolled rather than a template, which combined with 7th’s D-scythe nerfs and the Hemlock’s aforementioned drawbacks, made the D-cannon do such a better job erasing infantry and tanks for the points.

  • Heinz Fiction

    I’d still prefer not having flyers in the game but burning them down with fire is the next best thing for me 😉

    • Crablezworth


  • LordKrungharr

    I think a reasonable FAQ/Errata type of fix is the flamer-style weapons could not hit Supersonic flyers in Supersonic mode unless the attacking unit has the FLY keyword. If the flyer was in HoverJet mode then flame on for everyone!

    I’m very happy Raptors and other old jump infantry can attack Flyers in flight now though 🙂

    • helter266

      this right here is a solution.

  • Horus84cmd

    Let put this into perspective. Yes, you can shot planes with flamers. Yet, the vast majority of flamer type weapons are short distance and low-ish strength/AP. The odds of doing vast amounts, or significant, amounts of damage a low and if a player using a flyer is canny they should be able to out maneuver them.

    There is whole lot of fuming over nothing.

    NB: FYI. The Heavy-D-Scythe has an 16″ range

  • petrow84

    Meanwhile, your purpose-built air-defense laser on a mighty bulwark of the Imperium hits the flyers on 4+ at best, and all other targets on 6+.

    • Crablezworth

      And costs a small fortune too sadly

  • memitchell

    Even 38,000 years from now, a weapon that shoots a stream of flammable liquid could not hit an aircraft. Maybe a hovering helicopter. On the other hand, a laser weapon could not miss an aircraft, no matter how fast if flies. It’s the difference between firing a stream of liquid a few hundred feet per second for a few hundred feet vs the speed of light. For flamer type weapons to become the bane of aircraft is a glitch in the rules. On the other, other hand, since the dawn of aviation, when an airplane attacks a squad or vehicle on the ground, that squad or vehicle loses, badly. That’s why we spend a million to train pilots to fly aircraft worth millions of dollars. ANY ground attack aircraft (WW1 biplane, WW2 fighter bomber, Jet, attack helicopter) would flash by the plot of land we call a 40K battlefield so fast only a weapon already prepared and pointed in the right direction would have a chance of hitting said aircraft.

    • Drpx

      “Even 38,000 years from now it couldn’t hit”

      There’s what, five hundred years between the Napoleonic Wars and today? Think of the difference between a musket and whatever that Canadian guy used to snipe that terrorist from two miles away.

      • UnpluggedBeta

        Some canadian shooting some poor brown guy still follows the general expectations of physics and no one would batt an eye at a rifle doing something similar or even hitting another planet in the 41st millenium (it would raise the question of why big guns exist if a rifle could do it though).

        If, however, GW suddenly introduced a new weapon, followed by fluff, that was a “neo flamer” that had the miraculous science-fantasy capability to shoot supersonic aircraft out of the sky (along with all armies adopting it as standard), people wouldn’t be laughing at how ridiculous a situation this creates.

        • Drpx

          “some poor brown guy”

          Achmed wanted to die in a holy war, Dudley granted his wish.

          “40k technobabble”

          Gun works this way because a tiny goblin/black hole/daemon/piece of famous guy inside, < that’s 40k technobabble. Why people keep trying to use hard science on this universe I’ll never understand.

          • UnpluggedBeta

            That’s the most racist thing I’ve ever seen! Not every canadian is named dudley! SHAME.

            Regarding technobabble, yeah that’s my point—it’s dumb and ridiculous. People would immediately accept anti-air flamers if they put the bare minimum amount of effort into it. In other words, people don’t play the game because it’s a good game: they play it because they like the aesthetics and maybe even the dumb fluff.

  • 3AcresAndATau

    There’s no way this doesn’t get an errata.

  • Trey

    So my I.G. / A.M motar teams can plink at Jets ! I guess every mortar round has a VT fuse… cool. Even better EarthShaker has them too!

    • Damistar

      The German 88mm was a flak cannon before it became an anti tank gun.

      • Trey

        As was the 17pounder and the American 3″

        There is a modern weapon that actully does what the game is showing.. sort of.

        CV90 using 40 mm gun system


        One could argue that most space marine “tanks” are pretty much CV90’s in some ways upgraded and in others ways downgraded.

    • Drpx

      Flak is basically a mortar shell fired at planes.

      • Trey

        yes but FLAK was usually a High Velocity round not a VERY slow one like a mortar. I guess if you had enough of them you could “blanket” an area in barrage…