I hate “counts-as” in rules

I hate this term, all variations of it and have done my best to eliminate its usage from the Kings of War rules. One instance has slipped through though, and the issue it has caused is a perfect example of why I don’t like it.

The Orc War Drum – not an issue

Here is the War Drum’s special rule:

While within 6″ of one or more war drums, friendly nonallied units have +2 to their waver and rout nerve values. War Drums themselves are not affected by this rule.

We wrote a very similar rule in Uncharted Empires, called Rallying(n):

Friendly, non-allied units within 6” of this unit have +n to their Waver and Rout Nerve values. This is cumulative, with a maximum total of +2 if multiple units with Rallying! are in range.

At the time of release, Orcs couldn’t get the Rallying rule at all. They had the War Drum, which was essentially Rallying(2) but with some minor differences, but the two rules never conflicted because Orcs never got it. With the release of the Clash of Kings book and the artefacts within, Orcs did now have access to Rallying(1) via an artefact. Is this an issue? No. The rules do not conflict.

Each of them separately state that units can get up to +2 Nerve from the rules, but there’s nothing to say that you can’t get up to +2 from both sources. Orcs can now get up to +2 from a War Drum and an extra +1 from the Rallying artefact. We discussed this in the development of the CoK book (lol), we were aware of it and we were happy to allow it.

The issue

The one that we missed was Valiant for the Brotherhood.

Some units in this list have the Valiant Special Rule. This is identical to the Rallying! (1) special rule, except only Villeins can benefit from it.

Now we have a problem, because we’ve used a “counts-as” (“identical to”).

Argument 1) Valiant doesn’t count towards the +2 maximum specified in Rallying and can stack with it for a maximum of +2. Rallying is a separate rule to Valiant, so like the Orc Wardrum, though they have similar effects (identical in this case), they aren’t the same rule so can stack.

Argument 2) Valiant does count towards the +2 maximum. It is intended to be the same rule, just with the limitation of applying only to specific units like an Inspiring(x unit only) rule.

Argument 3 “the extremist”) Rallying states that the +2 maximum only applies to the bonus granted by units with the Rallying rule. Valiant states that it is “identical to” Rallying except that it only applies to Villeins. Therefore the second sentence, “[…]if multiple units with Rallying![…]”, is not modified and the Valiant rule reads as stated below and Valiant therefore has no upper limit to the number of times that the bonus applies:

Friendly, non-allied Villein units within 6” of this unit have +n to their Waver and Rout Nerve values. This is cumulative, with a maximum total of +2 if multiple units with Rallying! are in range.

All of these are valid arguments. 1 and 3 are technically correct rules (and my programmer esque brain points towards 3 being the most technically correct even if it’s completely against common sense), and 2 is trying to figure out what our intention was when writing the rule.

The Fix

Regardless, it’s not clear cut and can be argued either way. We need to FAQ it, and we’ve decided (barring any late disagreements) to go with argument 1. 

It is a perfect example to illustrate why I strongly dislike the usage of the term “counts-as”. Whenever you have an effect that applies to the original rule, there is a question whether it also applies to any rules that “count as” the original rule. We write rules for dangerous terrain, saying they “count as” difficult terrain. Does pathfinder ignore Dangerous Terrain as well? We write a rule that “counts as” Windblast – can you use it on a unit carrying Loot?

One thing that Jervis Johnson said in an article once that I agreed with is that two people playing a pickup game should always use rules as written. Trying to work out authors intent is bound to cause disagreements and like with the Rule, Not The Exception article, it can actually cause you to misuse rules if you try to read more than what is actually written. If the rules as written do not work or there are potential disagreements then it falls within the realm of FAQ/Errata.

Get rid of “counts as”. Either something is or isn’t. There is no counts-as.

One thought on “I hate “counts-as” in rules

  1. In the OOP world, you could have simply said “Valiant inherits Rallying”. Quite a pity English (and other natural languages) is not as concise as computer languages 😛


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