When In The Zone Mortalis We Must Be Swift As The Coursing River – Episode 8 (Year 7)

Welcome to Episode 8 of Year 7 of Edge of Empire, and tonight we do the following:-

  • Take a look at the updated rules for Zone Mortalis
  • Consider what your terrain options are
  • And then run up a Zone Mortalis List challenge

Podcast Time Stamps

  • 0:00:55 – Intro
  • 0:06:26 – Zone Mortalis Crunch
  • 0:59:39 – Zone Mortalis List Challenge
  • 2:12:08 – Close

Total Length – 2:22:39

Video Time Stamps

  • 0:00:06 – Intro
  • 0:05:37 – Zone Mortalis Crunch
  • 0:57:48 – Zone Mortalis List Challenge
  • 2:10:03 – Close

Total Length – 2:20:42

Zone Mortalis

Instead of vast open battlefields where tanks and Titans can freely unleash havoc and destruction, certain conflicts during the Age of Darkness take place on spacecraft or in cramped city spaces, highlighting the expertise of specialized infantry.

The second edition of the Horus Heresy introduced a set of rules known as Zone Mortalis (often abbreviated as ZM), which were initially published in White Dwarf 477. These rules have now been updated and expanded, filling approximately 30 pages compared to the original 7 pages in White Dwarf.

For optimal gameplay, players are advised to engage in 1500-2500 point battles utilizing a new and more flexible Force Organization chart, which allows for:

  • 1-2 HQ
  • 0-4 Elites
  • 1-6 Troops
  • 0-2 Fast Attack
  • 0-2 Heavy Support
  • 0-1 Primarch

There are some restrictions, for example no unit can have more than 15 models, no Dreadnoughts, Automata or Monstrous units with 8 or more Wounds, and only one Dreadnought model per 1000pts for example.

While it might appear advantageous to load up on HQ and Elite units, it’s important to note that there is a secondary objective in every mission. This objective awards 1 Victory Point (VP) for each HQ or Elite unit eliminated. If you fully maximize these slots, you potentially risk giving up 6VP, which is approximately one-third of the VP you can score from primary objectives in most missions.

The terrain rules have undergone updates and expansions since their appearance in White Dwarf. These updates include some peculiarly worded recommendations for utilizing the ZM floor tile set. It seems that the writers had the older card tiles from Necromunda, with pre-set layouts, or the older Forge World resin tiles in mind. However, there are guidelines provided for constructing your own tiles. Naturally, the rules for terrain features and board setup are presented on separate pages, as they are not typically referenced simultaneously.

The three available reactions in the White Dwarf rules remain unchanged, although they have been subtly rephrased. For instance, the Brace reaction no longer poses the risk of falling back off the table edge.

The most significant change compared to the White Dwarf rules lies in how models are deployed at the beginning of the game and how reinforcements enter the battlefield as the game progresses. Each Force Organization slot now costs a different number of reinforcement points, which are a limited resource generated at the start of the game and during each subsequent turn. These points are then expended to deploy models. Should you wish to deploy reinforcements on flanking table edges or in your opponent’s deployment zone, they will require an additional cost.

The rulebook includes three core ZM missions specifically designed for a 4×4 board, as well as two “apex” missions that draw inspiration from the Cthonia campaign and focus on narrative elements. While one of these missions can be played in any loyalist versus traitor game, the other is specifically designed for Thousand Sons versus Word Bearers and may be challenging to adapt for legions lacking a substantial number of Psyker units.

Towards the end of the rulebook, you will find a couple of additional terrain features that are supposedly themed for the Cthonian underworld. However, these features appear generic enough to warrant inclusion in the core terrain section.

Overall, these rules represent a significant improvement over those found in White Dwarf and are sure to generate engaging gameplay experiences, particularly since Zone Mortalis has always been where the Horus Heresy shines brightest.

Key Terrain Rules

Zone Mortalis introduces several rule changes, and while we won’t delve into all of them here, the most important ones are primarily related to terrain.

One example is when a model is partially obscured by a wall, granting it a cover save of 5+. If the obstruction is a barricade or debris, the cover save becomes 6+. Doors come in two sizes: up to 2″ wide or wider than 2″. This size determines which models can pass through them, and the doors can be open, closed, or even destroyed.

When moving through debris, both regular movement and charging are reduced by 2″. To move vertically, a model can only do so if it is in contact with a terrain piece designated as a ladder, stairway, or hatch.

Blast and Template Weapons receive a +1 bonus to their Wound rolls. Additionally, when using a Scatter Dice for such weapons, if the blast marker comes into contact with a wall or door, it only scatters up to the point where the center of the template meets the wall or door. The blast or template does not pass through the wall or door.


  • Suppress – When an enemy unit completes its movement within 12″ and Line of Sight of one of your units, you can trigger the Suppress reaction during the Movement Phase.

    Suppress allows you to initiate a Shooting Attack against that unit. However, these attacks are performed as Snap Shots and have the Pinning special rule.
  • Displace – During the Shooting Phase, if your opponent declares a Shooting Attack against your unit, you have the ability to move all models in that unit a distance equal to their Initiative value. After the movement, the range of the Shooting Attack is measured from the new position. The attacking player cannot choose a new target if the target unit is now out of range.
  • Brace – In the Assault Phase, when an enemy declares a Charge against your unit, you have the option to choose Brace. By choosing Brace, you must take a Morale check. Failing the check causes your unit to Fall Back a distance of 6″ and automatically regroup once the Fall Back move is completed. If the Morale test is passed, you automatically pass any Morale tests that are required as a result of losing an assault in the Fight sub-phase.


At the start of the game, unless otherwise noted, you have 6 deployment points, to decide on who to deploy at the start, and usually you get 2 more points at the end of each turn.

Depending on what force slot a unit occupies, its points are different.

  • HQ – 4
  • Elites – 2
  • Troops – 1
  • Fast Attack – 2
  • Heavy Support – 3
  • Primarch – 8

Any remaining points after the initial deployment phase are retained and accumulate with the points at the end of each turn. This accumulation allows players to deploy reinforcements during subsequent turns. In larger games, it may not be possible to deploy all units initially, which is a deliberate design choice by the studio. This design encourages players to approach deployment and reinforcements in a different manner compared to a standard game.

Reinforcements are introduced onto the battlefield at the beginning of a turn, starting from turn 2 onwards, along the table edge. It’s important to note that if a unit is not deployed by the end of the game, it is not considered destroyed.

The turn of deployment is determined by the winner of a Strategic Advantage roll, who then chooses their Battlefield Edge. Players take turns deploying units in an alternating fashion, starting with the player who does not possess the strategic advantage.

Zone Mortalis Terrain

In this edition, Zone Mortalis is played on a 4×4 board, without exception, in the previous edition there was no set size, but most people played either 3×3 or 4×4.

There are now lots of terrain options that you can go for with the cheapest being the Games Workshop Boarding Actions Terrain Set, which can be had from Element Games for £110.50 and Michael is planning to buy it later this month to finish off my personal plastic ZM board.

That set gets you a pair of 704mm by 607mm card gaming boards, plus a huge set of walls and doors that represent the interior of a space vessel. My personal plan is that they will be the service corridors for my Hive City board.

There is also the plastic Zone Mortalis scenery from Games Workshop, a range which includes the following:-

And TTCombat do an excellent range of MDF Iron Labyrinth Terrain which ranges from £72 for the Ultima Complex, which is probably half the terrain to need to individual parts costing between £10 and £30

And Gamemat.EU also have their Hive Wall terrain, which we have a couple of sets of those in storage for Company of Legends

Michael and Chris both have in progress Zone Mortlais board, Chris bought the Forgeworld tiles before they went out of print, whereas I have been slowly for the past few years been building a plastic set.

Michael’s plan has been to create a living underhive city, so I have based it around the Dark Uprising set for Necromunda, plus a bunch of Sector Mechanicus terrain to add more variety. I also have Munitorum Armored Containers, and Galvanic Servohaulers to create working areas, an abandoned Enforcers Repressor, and plenty of Thermic Plasma Conduits, Thermic Plasma Regulators and Haemotrope Reactor to create a busy living environment. 

The next step is to add the boarding action terrain set to add service corridors, and then a market place, before finally throwing in a gang stronghold, but I still also need two more sets of the floor tiles to add as well. 

Hoping to finish this by the end of the year.

Zone Mortalis List Challenge


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