Combat Patrol; A Legitimately Fun Way To Play Warhammer 40K?

September 2, 2023 by brennon

Games Workshop launched Warhammer 40,000 10th Edition earlier this year alongside a reasonably new way to play the game. The idea of Combat Patrol has existed in the past but this new take on the game offered up the potential for someone to simply dive in with free rules and one box of miniatures to get a taste of the grimdark future.


Shop Warhammer 40,000 @ Store.OnTableTop

I was on the fence about if this would work but, after playing a few games of Combat Patrol myself and seeing reactions from others online, it seems like Combat Patrol might be the best idea Games Workshop has had for Warhammer 40,000 in years. So, I thought it was time to give my thoughts on this as a fun way to get stuck in and play Warhammer 40,000.

What Is Warhammer 40,000 Combat Patrol?

Combat Patrol is a stripped-back version of Warhammer 40,000 where you and your friend bring theoretically balanced armies to the tabletop for quick games. These Combat Patrols can be purchased from Games Workshop (or ourselves at Store.OnTabletop!) and come with all of the miniatures you need and cover pretty much all of the Xenos, Imperial and Chaos factions from Warhammer 40,000 and the grimdark future.

astra militarum combat patrol

Obviously, this means that there are rather specific armies that you can choose from at this level. The Chaos Demon Combat Patrol that I've been using features just Khorne. No Nurgle, Slaanesh or Tzeentch. You sort of have to roll with that if you want to get stuck in though but hopefully, as 10th Edition continues to grow, we'll start to see more Combat Patrols which focus on the sub-factions and the like that you find within the armies of Warhammer 40,000.

Warhammer 40,000 Combat Patrol Rules

Rules-wise, all of the rules for your Combat Patrol can be found online via a series of FREE PDF documents. You get information detailing your leader(s), troops, and specialised units from your Combat Patrol with the specific rules you need to know for using them. This means that these armies ever so slightly different from the ones you'll find in regular 40K as they have been tweaked and changed so that they are, again, theoretically balanced against the other Combat Patrols in the range.

As well as the rules for your miniatures, you'll also find specific special rules dedicated to your Combat Patrol that give them their flavour alongside special secondary objectives, enhancements and stratagems that you can use. With your enhancements in particular, you'll get to choose between two which means that you do have some flexibility depending on what enemy you might be coming up against.

tau combat patrol

Diving into your actual games, because all of the Core Rules for Warhammer 40,000 and Combat Patrol are free, there's no additional books you need to buy in order to start playing. The free PDF contains the rules for setting up and getting started with six missions for you to play. Each of these missions has a special rule and a primary objective that you're looking to complete alongside the fixed secondary one you picked from your army rules.

Games are limited to five turns and play out on a 44" x 30" battlefield so there's not a lot of hanging around to be done. This means you could easily play out Combat Patrol games on a dining room table and with a handful of terrain that you have lying around. Prepare the shoeboxes!

Combat Patrol As A Game

After playing a handful of games of Combat Patrol, I am mightily impressed with what Games Workshop has done with it for 10th Edition. One of the major sticking points when it came to getting into the game was where to start. Do you build a 500 point army and play with that or go all in and go for something bigger around the 1000 or 2000 point mark. Having these "balanced" forces going up against each other with their own, tailored army lists and getting access to the rules to play these games without having to spend an extra penny on books is great and makes the initial spend a lot easier for someone wanting to get started.

chaos space marine combat patrol

From a learning standpoint, this is great. I have a real problem trying to remember all the rules I need to play an army, especially in Warhammer 40,000. 9th Edition was a mess of stratagems and special rules that I routinely forgot because I was only playing maybe two or three games a year. Combat Patrol cuts all that down and gives maybe one or two special rules to learn and three stratagems to add onto the core one that you find in the main rules. So for me, with my brain made of cheese, it meant that I was always engaged in the game and didn't end up finding myself checking things constantly.

There are more complicated armies than the one I chose of course. The Adeptus Mechanicus, Astra Militarum and maybe one or two others have a bit more to them that you need to get your head around but in general, it's not something that's going to melt your brain. Because the Combat Patrol rules are free, it also means you can do some shopping around before you buy into it. Loving the miniatures is just one of the reasons to buy an army. Having a look at the rules and seeing if they're for you is also another key factor. If you don't like the rules or they just don't mesh, you won't want to play the army.

This is of course a trend that I hope continues over the course of 10th Edition's life as it makes Warhammer 40,000 very approachable. You never know though, it could end up being that future Combat Patrol rules end up getting locked behind paywalls but, we shall see.

All in all, Combat Patrol for Warhammer 40,000 gets a massive tick from me. It allowed me and my friends to play THREE games of Warhammer 40,000 over the course of an afternoon, all the way to the end and with properly cinematic moments to boot. That was including a little bit of learning and some referencing of rules during the first game. The games were genuinely fun and had us thinking about potentially moving on to different forces to try them out too.

Combat Patrol = Achievable Hobby

From a modelling and hobby point of view, Combat Patrol also sets you achievable goals. You're suddenly not finding yourself in the situation where you get paralyzed by choice in the course of getting to a playable level of points. You're also not drowning under a mountain of plastic that can in many cases become seriously off putting.

deathwatch combat patrol

With Combat Patrol, you get a box of miniatures that, even with the horde factions of Warhammer 40K doesn't become overwhelming. I sat down and painted up my entire Khorne Demon force over the course of maybe two or three weeks but you could easily do it in a few days if you really wanted to get it done for that weekend's gaming.

What's also nice is that the sets give you a good mixture of units to paint up so you don't get bored. In most cases, you get a fun character miniature, some core Battleline troops and then one or two units which are specialised and occasionally massive. It neat that it gives you a good taster of the faction and what they have to offer, especially for someone new to the game.

Another hobbying element that I like is that you just focus on giving the miniatures the weapons and accessories from their entries in the Combat Patrol list. You don't have to worry about whether or not you should take the rocket launcher or the flamer because the rules have already lain that out for you. This might be a gripe for some people but I find it pretty darn handy, especially if you're coming to a faction or the game as a whole new. It has all been done in the name of that balance Games Workshop have plugged into the rules to try and make your experiences fair.

That doesn't mean you can't go whacky and kitbash a bunch of stuff if you don't mind. You don't even have to be WYSIWYG if you don't want to as long as you've got an understanding opponent. But, those guidelines are there and they're pretty helpful! Maybe get the magnets out so you can swap things out once you've graduated from Combat Patrol?

Final Thoughts - Is Combat Patrol Good?

I think you'll see from my thoughts here that I'm rather enamoured with Combat Patrol. Games Workshop are doing a lot of dumb things in the modern wargaming world with Warhammer 40,000 that would hurt a smaller company and that's not going away any time soon. Combat Patrol, though, is a legitimately good idea and it works, despite a few little niggles.

space wolves combat patrol

Throughout this article I've mentioned balance and I'd say the games that I've seen played and played myself have been. The focus on objectives is pretty key and whilst you could go and absolutely murder your opponent, there's more to be gained from actually playing the missions. I think that's a pretty key lesson to teach right from the off for anyone wanting to dive deeper into Warhammer beyond this. That doesn't mean that the game feels balanced at all times.

There are some armies where, depending on the game you're playing, you might feel hard pressed for your forces to be able to do the job it's meant to. An example of this was in one of the games I played where a character needed to take and hold objectives to score them. That's great for my friend who has two characters to choose from and units that like sitting back and shooting, but I'm playing Khorne Demons and I don't have guns. So, I had to really think about how much time I spent hanging back or slinking through cover before hitting out.

In some ways, that's great as it made me think about how I was going to approach the game but it didn't make me feel like my army was playing the way it should at times. This is always going to happen of course and there will also be match ups which just feel massively in favour of one side over the other. As a reminder, Combat Patrol is still, at its heart, Warhammer 40,000 and that means it can be devastatingly brutal if you're not careful. Were it not for some positioning behind cover I could well have had two units shot off the board in turn one!

Can the game feel a bit awkward at times? Yes. Does it feel like all the Combat Patrols are in tune with their factions? Errm, kinda? There's a Space Wolf one for example but it doesn't feel very Space Wolf-y and the same goes for the Dark Angels. Most of the others feel like they work though and it's not always a bad thing if the Space Marines don't get the best deal right out of the gates. Hopefully, it will get more people looking at Xenos!

Combat Patrol Range - Warhammer 40K

Talking of the Xenos, my friend was playing as T'au and when we were playing, it did feel like it was one of the odder Combat Patrols. They get Fire Warriors which is great but the mix of other units (Stealth Suits and a Ghostkeel) felt like they were a little misplaced. It didn't appear like the units gelled well together and I know some have felt that with other sets like the Thousand Sons.

Is Combat Patrol going to be for everyone? No. If you're not a fan of Warhammer 40,000 then I can't see this bringing you back into the fold. What I would say though is that if you're someone who has miniatures lying around from past editions, I would cobble together enough miniatures to give Combat Patrol a shot. You can proxy the things you don't have and dive into some quick games using the host of free rules currently available. It might be a way for you to scratch that Warhammer 40,000 itch and get back into the game.

really hope that Games Workshop continues with this trend of making Combat Patrol a relatively "easy-on-the-wallet" entry point into Warhammer 40,000. It's such a good idea to give folks the chance to play as a variety of different armies right out of the box whilst not having to snap up a bunch of books.

Even if you end up not liking Warhammer 40,000, you could just use those miniatures to play Xenos Rampant or Grimdark Future...

Have you played Combat Patrol and if so, what do you think of it?

"Rules-wise, all of the rules for your Combat Patrol can be found online via a series of FREE PDF documents..."

"From a modelling and hobby point of view, Combat Patrol also sets you achievable goals..."

Related Games

Related Companies

Related Content Types

Related Content Formats

Related Product Types

Related Proportions

Related Scaled

Related Genres