Understanding the lingo of competitive play is often overlooked in everyone’s pursuit of tabletop greatness. However, understanding the slang leads to a faster and better grasp of advanced play.
The 40K Urban Dictionary
Nothing like looking up Full Send on urban dictionary has made me feel like the proverbial boomer. Yet, my appreciation for posts with the expression has grown tremendously since. And this is what this lexicon is all about.
Learning the competitive lingo is an essential part of learning to play competitive. There’s no escaping it, as you will run into these terms sooner or later. However, the quicker you get to embrace the slang, the faster you can sit at the grown up table and carry a conversation.
Let’s say you are a budding Necron player looking to get better at the game. You tune in a live game to see how they function – sound strategy so far.
While you may be familiar with the general rules of the game and the Necron codex, nowhere in these books is the sentence “I want to base your boat with the pile in of the Murderbuckets”, which is a real sentence used in a real game.
Obviously, I didn’t pick the easiest sentence for my example, but basing is a very important mechanic to learn. If you don’t know which units are boats(Drukhari/Harlequin transports) and murderbuckets (Crypto Thralls), understanding what or why you want to base them is beyond the reach of anyone.
Here you can find the most common terminology of 40k used in the tournament and/or competitive scene, broken down and explained in layman’s terms.
The Warmistress’ video below is a great introduction to this article and I highly suggest you watch it.
The advantage of writing them down means it’s both easier to keep updated, and it’s easier for you to search for specific expressions.
The terms are broken down into categories, but the search function might be a handier tool.
Base Game Terms
RAW / RAI – Rule As Written and Rule As Intended. This often comes up in rules discussions, meaning, what’s actually written versus how the rule is probably intended to work. If you plan on debating this, remember that nobody knows the actual intent behind a rule, despite how stupid it might look.
5+, 5++, 5+++ – This is a comparison of a model’s available saves. + is the armor save, ++ is invulnerable save, +++ is damage negation, à la Feel No Pain (see below)
MSU – Multiple Small Units. This is an army design term, for armies filled with, you guessed it, many small units. This is both number wise and points wise – for example, Custodes are hardly an MSU army because although (usually) in small units, there are not many of them.
Deathstar – Star Wars reference, sometimes also called deathball. A very large, very costly, and very deadly unit. For example, a 10-man Custodes Warden unit, with 4 CPs worth of stratagems played on them each turn.
Crutch – This is a bit of a misnomer, as it is used for a unit that is unreliable. Like an Ork Shokk Attack Gun, having a random number of shot, with a random strength. Sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes its terrible.
Tax – As in: two things are certain, death and taxes. A Tax is a unit you need to play to fit army composition restrictions. The 3rd Troop in a Battalion, or, having to take a unit of Brimstone Horrors in a Disciples of Be’Lakor list to have a Tzeentch unit.
Cute – This is a rule that is good but will never be used or not the intended use for the model. For example, a Baneblade has AP-2, D3 melee weapons. However, nobody plays a Baneblade to get it in melee.
CP Regen – Command Point Regeneration, basically any ability that gives you extra command points through the game.
Alpha Strike – This is a term from the US Army where a full air division would bomb the same hill during the Vietnam war. In 40K, throwing caution to the wind to destroy your opponent’s army (or a specific unit) with very little concern to what happens after that point – usually turn 1.
Null Deploy – The exact opposite of alpha striking, it means deploying your army almost entirely, or as much as possible in reserves, usually in order to protect it from an opponent’s alpha strike. This is sometimes used as a term for “Deploying very defensively”
Push – This is used mainly in advanced strategy discussion. It means leaving your otherwise safe position to fight your opponent. There will be an article on this at some point.
Screen – Often (wrongly) used as zoning. A screen is using a unit to shield another unit, usually from assault, but sometimes from short ranged weapons, by blocking their movement.
Zone – Zoning is used against reserves or forward deploying units, because such units usually can’t be placed within 9” of your models. This allows you to control where they can be set up and protect areas of the battlefield.
Threat Range / Threat Bubble – Or variation of this, means the effective range that a unit can hurt you from. The threat bubble of a classic Intercessor is 36″ meaning at most, it moves 6″ and then shoots you 30″. If you are behind a wall, the Intercessor’s bubble is 6″ + 2-12″, given the random charge distance.
Sacrifice – This is a chess term to place a unit somewhere knowing full well it will die. In game terms, this can be to either draw out your opponent’s firepower, or just to get you points for being there a single turn, Retrieving Data for example.
Trade – Another chess term, where instead of sacrificing a unit, you will trade units with your opponent. This is usually around objectives, as you need models to stand there. And standing there is a very dangerous thing to do in a game of 40k. It goes something like this: I walk to the point. You walk to the point and kill my guys. I send new guys to the point, and kill your guys. So on and so forth, until one player runs out of turns, or models.
Fork – Another chess term for threatening multiple enemies. Placing a shooting unit in range and line of sight of different targets give you more options. You can see what units without as many options do before determining which target your forking unit will attack.
This can also be used in melee, if you can charge multiple units, depending on who lives and dies during your shooting phase, or wheter or not another unit successfully charged a unit you were forking.
Focus Fire – The subtle art of throwing everything you have at a single target.
Base (basing) – Placing your models in base to base contact with an enemy model. This prevents the model you are touching from consolidating or piling on.
Touch (touching)– Unlike basing, touching means ‘within engagement range’. The nuance here is that this does not prevent your enemy from moving, it locks the unit in melee.
If you do this during your turn, by piling on for example, you will force your opponent to disengage on his turn, or remain in melee with you. If you do it on your opponent’s turn, it allows you to dodge enemy overwatch while getting in melee, at the risk of getting hit.
Toe-in – This applies to terrain, and is also sometimes called touching so you have to nuance between touching units and terrain. This is a play by intent term, for I want to be as barely as possible in this terrain feature.
Tripoint – Also called hugging, this is another advanced strategy. Placing 3 models in base to base contact around a single model prevents it from falling back without using a stratagem. As such, it will cost your opponent command points to fall back, or prevent it entirely if you do it to multiple units in the same turn.
This section is mainly for newer players. These are terms from previous rulesets or that are no longer commonly around, yet still used.
Infiltrate – A unit with the ability to deploy outside of its deployment zone. Sometimes also called forward deploy.
Intercept – The ability to shoot at units as they are setup on the battlefield, like Space Marines’ Auspex Scan
Deep Strike – Entering the battlefield during the game, anywhere on the board, usually 9” away from enemy models.
Outflank – A unit that can enter the battlefield from board edges. This is now a core part of the reserve rules, but Outflank is still used in army strategy talks to clarify the purpose of certain units.
FNP (Feel No Pain) – is a catchall term for an after save damage reduction, like the Poxwalker’s Unending Horde special rule. It is often casually written down as 6+++ (or whichever number you ignore wounds on)
Fearless – Immune to morale
MEQ – Marine EQuivalent. This was mostly a math-hammer term. “This unit kills 3MEQ on average per shooting phase.“ meaning that on average you kill three two-wounds models that have a 3+ save and a toughness of 4.
Brad Chester – Brad Chester is old, and part of the competitive scene. This list wouldn’t be complete without his inclusion in it.
These terms are usually used to talk about tournament formats or specific rules.
Battle Points – A tournament format where you score points equal to your game results. If you win 97- 15, you score 97 points for the rounds.
Win/Loss – Win by an inch, win by a mile, you get a point. Lose by an inch, lose by a mile, you do not.
Doubles Tournament – You and a friend battle it out versus another team of 2 in a single game. Rules are often slightly different between events, but the idea is the same: You are your friend’s army combine into a force you are both playing.
Team Tournament– Unlike a doubles event where 2 players play the same game, in team events, each player plays his own game. So a 5-man Team tournament, like the ATC below, is not one large 5 versus 5 game, but 5 instances of 1 versus 1.
Trios – Team Trios are a wild thing, as there is no ‘standard’ format for it. I’ve included it because a lot of event have a trio format, even if they’re all different.
ITC – Independent Tournament Circuit, which is now rebranded as International Tournament Circuit. This used to be a very specific game format, with its own FAQs and Missions, now it is more a global ranking for tournament goers. In the grim darkness of the 2010s, they have been the beacon of light of competitive 40k. All hail Reece and Frankie!
LVO – The Las Vegas Open, the largest 40k tournament in America, and the culmination of each ITC season, where the winner is crowned.
NOVA – The NOVA Open tournament, which is usually referred to for either the tournament format – a Win/Loss event that splits players in multiple brackets. It is often used as a terrain comparison, as in: the NOVA Ls, huge L shaped ruins that are a staple of the event.
ATC – The American Team Championship – A 5-player per team tournament. This format has grown in popularity over the years.
ETC / WTC – European Team Championship, now named World Team Championship. This is the Olympics equivalent of 40K, where each country may send a team of 8 to play the top teams from around the globe.
I have refrained from posting army specific ones, like Murder Buckets (Crypto Thralls) or Douche Canoe (Catacomb Command Barge) because they seem oddly specific.
Are there some terms you don’t understand or that should be added to the list? Let me know using the form below.