Each battle is divided into a number of iterations. When an attack order begins a battle, its effect describes how many iterations will be fought before the battle ends. Unit coexistence battles have an eight iteration limit. In a given iteration, the active player is the one who stands to damage his opponent, while the passive player is attempting to resist being damaged. This is true no matter which player is the attacker and which is the defender. Recall that the roles of attacker and defender do not change in the course of a battle.
The order being executed instructs the attacker to choose a target area, the one that is being attacked. A legal target area must include at least one enemy unit or Hero. The order being executed also informs the attacker about the number of origin areas from which he may attack. A “Firefight” order, for example, allows the attacker to attack the target area from one area only. An origin area must be adjacent to the target area (i.e., they must share a border) and must contain at least one of the attacker’s units. If the attacker has units in the target area, it becomes an origin area automatically, but does not count against the order’s limit on the number of origin areas that may be chosen.
For battles begun by an attack order, once the attacker identifies the battle’s origin areas, he designates which units in the origin areas will engage in the battle. He also designates which Heroes in the origin areas will engage. He may engage units and Heroes freely from among those present in the origin areas, up to and including all of them. The advantage of engaging a particular unit or Hero is that doing so brings its capabilities to bear. The disadvantage is that engaged units and Heroes may be damaged or eliminated. All units and Heroes in the target area, whether belonging to the defender or attacker, become engaged automatically.
For coexistence battles, the Traitor player is always the defender and the Imperial player is always the attacker. The area of coexistence is considered both the target area and the origin area in coexistence battles. All units and Heroes in the area count as engaged.
Flying Units Joining Battle
When a player with flying units executes an attack order and identifies a target area, his nearby flying units can immediately spend up to three movement points to move to a friendly or neutral area that is adjacent to the target area. The area they move to must then be legally identified as an origin area for the attack (and counts toward the quantity of origin areas that the attack order allows), and the flying units in question must then be engaged in the battle. The area to which the units move becomes activated. Flying units may not transport units when they join battle in this way. Flying units may not join a coexistence battle.
Drawing Combat Cards
To determine how many combat cards to draw at the start of battle, each player sums the combat ratings of his engaged units, divides that sum in half (rounding up), and draws that many cards. For example, a player attacking with two Chaos Space Marines units (rank III each) and one Traitor Army unit (rank I) draws four cards (III + III + I gives a sum of 7, which, divided in half, is 3½, which is rounded up to four cards). Some order cards allow players to draw extra cards above this sum.
Each player who has at least one engaged Hero also draws two cards from his Hero combat deck and adds those cards to his combat card hand. (However, if all engaged Heroes on a player’s side are wounded, only one Hero combat card is drawn. Even though Hero combat cards have a different back than regular combat cards, they function just like regular combat cards in battle, save that they are discarded to a separate discard pile when used.
Note that it is always obvious to a player’s opponent which card(s) in his hand were drawn from his Hero combat deck and which were drawn from his regular combat deck, since they have distinct backs. A player is entitled to choose or avoid cards of a given type with full knowledge of which is which when carrying out special effects such as that of the “Attrition” card, which allows a player to discard random cards from his opponent’s hand. Obviously, in a hand with mixed card backs, the selection is not entirely random.
The defender chooses which player will be active and which will be passive in the first iteration. The roles then alternate.
1) The active player plays cards or retreats: You can reveal a number of cards equal to the current iteration number. If it's not the first iteration you may retreat. You may also pass, which skips to step 6. If you have zero cards you must pass.
2) The active player carries out special effects: From the combat cards played, choose one special effect to resolve. If it has a counter cost, the defender can discard combat cards with the appropriate number of shields to cancel the effect. The active player may then choose any number of free effects to resolve (those with a '+' are free.)
3) The active player totals regular damage: Add up the strength of all the combat cards played by the attacker.
4) The passive player resists regular damage: Discard cards for their shield value. Each shield reduces regular damage by 1.
5) Acive player assigns damage: Any regular damage left is assigned to the passive player's units by the active player. If the passive player has no units remaining damage may be applied to engaged Heroes.
6) Iteration is advanced and roles switch.
You cannot retreat if your engaged units are in an area with a routed activation marker.
If the defender retreats, he must choose one friendly or neutral area adjacent to the target area and move all of his engaged units, and any Heroes present, there. Exception: Only flying units may retreat across a crevasse. The destination area of the retreat is marked with one of the retreating player’s routed activation markers. (If that area already had an activation marker with its activated icon face-up, simply flip it over. If that area already had a routed activation marker, don’t add a new one.) If there is no adjacent friendly or neutral area, the defender may not retreat.
If the attacker retreats, he does not move any units from their origin areas. All of those origin areas (i.e., those that contain units that were engaged when the retreat was announced) are marked with routed activation markers as described for the defender, above.
In both cases, the battle ends immediately.
If a unit is routed from an area with a routed activation marker, or if there are no legal areas to rout to, it is eliminated.
End of Battle
Battle ends when any of the following conditions occur:
-All of one player’s engaged units and Heroes have retreated, been eliminated, or been otherwise removed from the battle (such as by being routed).
-A new iteration would begin, but neither player has any combat cards or Hero combat cards remaining.
-The number of iterations specified on an attack order have been exhausted, or a coexistence battle exhausts eight iterations.
Any of these conditions end a battle immediately; any remaining steps or effects of the battle (save those described below), even in the current iteration, are not applied. For example, if all of a passive player’s units rout due to special effects, regular damage is not applied, because the battle ends before that step.
If battle ends and no defending units remain in the target area, the attacker may move all, some, or none of his surviving engaged units and Heroes into the target area. Otherwise, surviving engaged units and Heroes simply remain in their respective origin or target area.
When a battle ends, any unused combat cards and Hero combat cards are discarded. Finally, remember to discard (or recycle) any attack order that initiated the battle.