I’ve seen a fair few rule disagreements take place over rules that don’t exist.
Someone can swear blind that a rule exists, they know it must exist, it must be there. Except it isn’t there and it doesn’t exist. A bit of a Kings of War Mandela Effect.
Recently there was a question raised in Fanatics about whether a unit which has the new Slayer(n) rule (gains (n) attacks versus monsters, large infantry etc.) stacks with the artefact that grants Slayer(D3), so that a unit gains 2D3 extra attacks versus monsters, large infantry etc.
We’ve discussed it extensively and I’m now absolutely certain that under the current wording of the rules, not only does it stack, but there’s a ton of loopholes in the rules allowing other stacks. It all comes about because people think that a rule exists which doesn’t. I’m certain it’s unintended, and I’m fairly sure that the RC will add the missing rule in an FAQ, but it is there in black and white.
Or, rather it isn’t there.
“You can’t contact a different facing during a charge”
Before we get onto stacking special rules, a standout example of a rule not existing is from the discussions around charging the corner and a second facing of an individual.
Note that this confusion is what led to the “If your individual is flat against another unit then that face can’t be charged” rule, so it takes place before that rule was added.
Unit A wants to charge the Individual which is behind Unit B. They are in the front arc of the individual so must charge the front facing.
They charge in and end up like this. They are touching the corner of the front facing while also flush against the flank. However, because it’s an individual, the individual is picked up and aligned with the front facing against Unit A.
“But Nick!” cried a few, “You can’t contact a different facing than the one you’re charging, so because you’re flush against the flank when you make contact*, it’s not a legal charge.”
You see, the problem is that they’re assuming a rule exists which doesn’t. The rule said that you have to contact the facing that you’re charging, it didn’t say that you can’t contact another facing. You are contacting the facing via the corner of the facing. Whether you contact another facing at the same time is irrelevant because there’s no rule saying you can’t.
There was a knee jerk reaction where people tried to argue that a corner is not part of the facing, which broke a whole bunch of other very legitimate charges and opened up a metric ton of positioning exploits (as long as you could make sure your opponent could only contact the corner then the target unit couldn’t be charged). That knee jerk soon settled down once people really starting demonstrating how they could exploit the hell out of a “the corner is not part of the facing” interpretation.
However, the disagreement about whether the charge presented was legal centred around people assuming that rule existed which didn’t, or said something that it didn’t. It led to the whole “as long as an individual is flush against another unit, that facing can’t be charged” rule to resolve.
* Ignoring the arguments about there being an infinitesimally small angle you could charge in because bases can’t touch.
“You can’t stack the same special rule twice”
I’ve seen a few people say that you can’t benefit from the same special rule twice, unless it’s a (+n) value rather than (n), e.g. Crushing Strength (+1) will stack with a units existing Crushing Strength, but Crushing Strength (1) won’t.
Except nope. That rule doesn’t exist.
In some cases, rulings explicitly acknowledge that a unit can have rules twice. The common is a hero with Bane-Chant(2) taking the Lute of Insatiable Darkness having two copies of the Bane-Chant(2) rule but can only use one of them.
Let’s break down potential stacks into these categories:
- Blocked by core rules
- Blocked by the wording of the rule itself
- Everything else
Blocked by core rules
In many cases, stacks of the same rule are blocked from both being applied by a core rule.
For example, Elite allows you to re-roll ones. You can technically have two copies of Elite on the same unit (e.g. an Elf unit taking the Elite artefact) and there isn’t anything in the Elite rule which says only one version of Elite can apply, except there’s the “Can’t re-roll a re-roll core rule.” Even if you have Elite twice, the can’t re-roll a re-roll rule applies, so you can’t re-roll any 1’s you roll with the first elite re-roll.
For the same reason, you can’t re-roll a miss with the blade of slashing, roll a 1, and then re-roll it again with Elite.
Another very common example is when a unit has two spells of the same type (or even two ranged attacks in general). The value isn’t modified, true, but you can’t cast two spells in the same turn. It doesn’t matter if you have two lots of Bane-Chant(2), you can only cast one of them.
In these cases, special rules are blocked from stacking due to some sort of conflict with a core rule.
Blocked by the wording of the rule itself
Some special rules specifically state that they can’t stack with themselves. Brutal, for example, states:
When testing the Nerve of an enemy unit in Melee with one or more of your units with this rule, add the highest Brutal(n) value to the total rolled.
Brutal explicitly is only applied once and cannot stack, whether from one or from multiple units. The stacking is blocked by the wording of the rule itself.
Here are some examples of rules that could potentially stack, but explicitly do not stack by wording of the special rule itself:
Now it has to be stressed that if there was a “You can’t stack special rules” rule, then the exceptions listed here wouldn’t need to specifically state that they do not stack. They would be covered by the core rules. Except they do specifically state that they don’t stack.
The other category is every other special rule and ability which could stack and doesn’t either specifically say that it doesn’t stack, and isn’t blocked from stacking in the core rules.
Slayer is one of those rules. Slayer simply says that you get an extra (n) attacks vs big stuff. If you have 10 attacks and Slayer(D3) then your attacks become 10 + D3 versus monsters. If you have the artefact granting you an additional Slayer(D3), then your attacks become 10 + D3 + D3 versus monsters.
I have to stress that I’m not arguing your original Slayer(D3) rule becomes Slayer(2D3), I’m saying that your special rule section for that unit written in full might look something like:
Crushing Strength(2), Slayer(D3), Slayer(D3), Vicious
There isn’t anything saying you can’t have the same special rule twice, there’s nothing that stops you applying Slayer twice within the wording of Slayer, and there isn’t a core rule which stops it.
“You forgot about the (+n) rule which renders your whole argument moot you silly sausage”
This is a section that people point to when they say the same rule can’t stack twice. Except this rule doesn’t say that. It only says how to handle (+n), not that you can’t have it twice.
I’ve heard an argument that there’s an implication that you can’t stack the same rule twice because this rule exists. Well, maybe? I get that might have been the intention, but there are two severe problems with that argument.
Firstly, there are rules that would stack in rather daft ways without this rule. Lifeleech, for example:
Say your unit sat in an aura of Lifeleech(1), and you had Lifeleech(1) already. You wouldn’t increase the value of your original Lifeleech, you would just have Lifeleech(1) twice. Crucially, by the wording above, they would both trigger at the same time when the first wound was dealt. So, if you only dealt one wound, both Lifeleech(1) special rules would trigger immediately and you would still heal 2 damage, despite only doing one. The +n rule is necessary to allow Lifeleech to stack in a way that increases the value rather than duplicates.
The second argument that blows the “there’s an implication that you can’t stack” is that there are multiple examples of special rules which specifically state that they do not stack. If there was a rule that things cannot stack, they wouldn’t need to specifically say they don’t and they would be covered in the “blocked by a core rule” category. The fact that these rules say they don’t stack itself implies that there isn’t a no-stack rule.
Thirdly, an implication is not a rule. There isn’t an implication that I can pivot as many times as I want during a charge – there are hard and fast rules in black and white saying how many pivots I can do during a charge.
So what are the implications?
Before anyone starts moaning, I’m not seriously suggesting this is the intent of the rules or that this is anything more than a thought exercise before it’s (hopefully) patched in an FAQ. I’m simply demonstrating that a rule, despite popular belief, doesn’t exist. If someone tried to pull any of this shit in a friendly game, I’m walking away. If someone tried to pull it in a tournament, the TO would either (technically incorrectly) rule against it or that person is losing mad sportsmanship points. If someone tried to pull it at Masters or an event that incentivised winning at all costs… Well I don’t know. They would probably get away with it because they are technically correct.
When I first started examining this, I thought that it would just be Slayer that broke the implied rule. One of my early PMs on the subject said “in all the other potential stacks it’s watertight so far”. I was wrong. Here are just some of the stacks I’ve discovered:
- Duelist unit + Mournful Blade (Duelist): It doubles twice. One of the cleanest examples that there is. Vampire with 28 attacks vs Individuals anyone?
- Stealthy unit + additional Stealthy (e.g. an Aura): Enemy suffers -2 to hit with ranged attacks. The wording is just “suffer an additional -1 to hit modifier”. No explicit statement it doesn’t stack, doesn’t conflict with main rules. It stacks.
Headstrong unit + Dwarven Ale (Headstrong): You’re not re-rolling anything. You get two attempts to shrug off Wavering on a 3+.Edit: Dave Musgrave pointed out that I got this one wrong. Headstrong is one of the rules that excepts stacking because of “If a unit with this rule…”
- Nimble unit + Wine of Elvenkind (Nimble): A unit can pivot 3 times during a charge, 3 times when Advancing, or twice At The Double. This one is on the borderline. The rule says “Single” extra pivot, but I would argue it’s a single extra per instance of the special rule. While I would lean towards the interpretation that it’s just one regardless of the number of times the unit has Nimble, the presence of rules explicitly saying they don’t stack and this one not saying that leans me the other way. This is absolutely fucking broken. There’s a very good reason that the number 1 strategy against dragons (especially in 2nd ed on 50mm bases) is “make sure your opponent is playing by the rules and not getting extra pivots”.
No Current Option to Stack
There are a number of other combinations that would technically work, but I’m not aware of any way to actually make those combinations.
For example, Dread says that you can’t be affected by Dread from different sources. What if you had Dread twice on the same source? Brutal says from one or more units**, Dread says other sources. Dread twice from the same source is not a different source.
The same applies to Radiance of Life. If you could have a single source with Radiance of Life twice then you could regain two life from that one source.
Strangely, despite (+1) being fairly common, Crushing Strength(1) + Crushing Strength (1) would result in a total of a +2 modifier in combat, exactly the same as if the unit had Crushing Strength(1) + Thunderous Charge(1). I’m not arguing that it would be Crushing Strength(2), but that they would have two instances of (1) that have no rule saying they don’t both apply.
** I specifically checked the Brutal exception to make sure it said one or more units. If it had said “if multiple units in the same combat”, then that would mean that if only one unit in a combat had Brutal, and it had Brutal twice then it would stack. To make it even more hilarious, the new ability from The Big Deal would turn both instances of Brutal(1) into Brutal(2), giving the Ogre unit a total of +4 to the nerve roll. Sadly, it says one or more units.
Again, this is just a thought piece. I am not seriously suggesting people start taking lists with a dragon with the Wine of Elvenkind. I’m simply pointing out that a rule I’ve seen commonly referred to doesn’t exist. If there weren’t any rules which specifically stated “this rule does not stack with itself” then I would put more strength in the argument that there’s an implied rule, but the fact that there are multiple examples of this renders this particular argument completely null.
If that rule existed (without getting into the implication vs actual rule part), then there would be no need for Brutal or Shattering to have specific exceptions.
Originally I was only interested in whether you could get Slayer(D3) + Slayer(D3), which I think would be a trap regardless, but the more I looked into the arguments on either side and challenged my own Mandela effect, the worse it got.