SaltyJohn here, head judge for the Las Vegas Open, and TFG Radio personality here to talk to you about Rules Abusers. From the beginning of time, humans have played games. From that first game there have always been rules. Some games rules are so simplistic that breaking, or bending them, is practically impossible. Other games’ rules are so complex that bending them to your will almost seems like part of the game. Now that 8th edition seems to be entering the realm of simpler rules, have we turned a corner with Warhammer 40k?
If you are interested in the history of games I suggest the series Crash Course Games from Crash Course on YouTube.
The arrival of 8th edition last year heralded a new era of simplified 40k. It was lauded by many in the various 40k communities for the small set of core rules and expanded rules through Indexes, and the various types of play, like Matched Play. Some people, of course, didn’t like it because “change” but overall the new system was a refreshing update to what felt at times was a stagnated game system, even between similar editions.
Another boon of this new edition, was that it came with a new and improved Games Workshop, in several ways. With a rebooted, vigorous, and often times humorous online presence; combined with a renewed commitment to timely FAQs and Errata to problematic rules and interactions, we entered into a new era of tighter and clearer rules where not only the RAW (Rules as Written) but RAI (Rules as Intended) are clearer than ever. Personally my favorite part is the sassy comments the GW Warhammer 40k page makes back at people who make silly counter intuitive, and counter common sense, arguments. Which brings me to my point. Is 8th edition the end of the Rules Abuser class of player?
Warhammer 40k has a long, and storied, history of players who abuse the rules. Rules abuse is different than a Rules Lawyer by the way. A Rules Lawyer is generally a person who argues the RAW of rules simply for fun, usually online, and to show loopholes in the rules but not with the explicit intention of bringing these loopholes to the table top and exploiting them. For the Rules Lawyer the rules, and the game, are mostly an intellectual exercise and if they play the game they leave those arguments at home. The Rules Abuser is the opposite kind of player. The Rules Abuser class of 40k player is the one who comes to the table armed to the teeth with RAW arguments to win the game his way. They can be simple, or they can edge into the realm of terrifyingly abusive to the game and degrading to the social interactions of the game itself. These players usually make a list that hinges around their ability to make a RAW argument about something specific to win their games through “gotcha” type moments with their opponents. Needless to say these players are often seen as less than admirable, and can sometimes even be players who are actively avoided and may even have earned bans from local stores and events as a result. It isn’t the arguing itself that’s the issue with Rules Abusers. It is the intent behind what they’re doing that causes problems between them and their opponents/judges/TOs. Sadly many of the players who fit this class don’t recognize what it is that earns them bad reputations. There are some notable examples from our 40k history of these individuals and arguments but rather than go through a smorgasbord of players past indiscretions let’s discuss instead the ways 8th edition may finally bring about the demise of these less than savory characters in our beloved community.
8th edition is generally a simpler game. The core rules for the game went from over 40 pages of rules in previous editions to just 8 pages of core rules, plus a few pages for the specific styles of play like Matched Play. Even things like Universal Special Rules have been significantly pared down, made truly universal in some cases, and in other cases eliminated completely. The lack of massive numbers of formations and their accompanying rules bloat and odd interactions we found in 7th, are gone. The way psychic powers work and how influential they could be on the game is paired down nicely as well, and they’re generally worded in a way that makes a lot more sense. All of this goes a long way to bringing the Rules Abusers into check more often. Aside from a simpler, and therefore harder to abuse, rule set making it difficult on the Rules Abuser the rapid fire FAQs/Errata from Games Workshop and the complete nature in which they address proven abuses also curbs the Abuser.
Two notable examples of this are the changes that came to Smite and Conscripts. By listening to the community at large, in particular the competitive community, GW has it’s ears to the ground on what is problematic in their rules and they’ve adjusted quickly. I would like to kindly remind anyone who would argue that GW isn’t addressing the issues in a timely manner because a few months went by between Conscripts/Smite being a known problem and a fix coming down from on high, that it wasn’t uncommon for GW to take over a year, if ever, to fix problems with the game that were far more game breaking than Conscripts or Smite. By consistently changing the game through FAQ and Errata, and doing so quickly, GW has set the important precedent that they will fix blatantly broken parts of the game. This is important to our conversation as the Rules Abuser will often build entire lists centered around abusing a specific loop hole, or broken unit/rule, and by consistently putting an end to this the Rules Abuser has a harder time abusing their rules consistently. It also means that buying, building, and painting an entire army based on an abusive idea is going to make the Rules Abuser’s life quite expensive, and thus discourages this type of list building. You can sometimes identify a Rules Abuser by looking at their reaction to changes made via FAQs, the more irrationally angry they get at the too fast pace of FAQs and Errata, according to them at least, the more likely you are to have a Rules Abuser on your hands.
Besides the benefit of finding out about rules abuses more easily; the GW presence on social media, and the inclusion of outside play testers, gives us important insight into the way GW thinks when writing the rules. Giving us a basis for RAI, or Rules as Intended. More importantly though the responses from GW to the community gives us a pretty firm leg to stand on when calling out Rules Abusers on their BS arguments. The highly sarcastic tone with which the Warhammer 40,000 community page takes when responding to some of the rules questions they get show the contempt with which they hold the abusive RAW arguments that often come up. In the past TOs, Judges, and other players would often be forced to capitulate to a ridiculous RAW argument made by a Rules Abuser and then address it later in an independent FAQ. Today it’s much easier to laugh, call it BS, and tell the player “No, you can’t do that.” The tighter rules, and consistent FAQs, have put such a damper on the Rules Abuser’s ability to write lists specifically to abuse a loop hole etc that many of them have turned to modelling to continue their abusive ways. Some gems from this new tactic below:
- Can I use an imperial knight without a base? If not please provide rules to support your argument.
- Can I deploy a fortification on it’s side?
- Can I deploy one fortification on top of another?
- Please show me where it says I have to model my marines standing up on their base instead of lying down.
The list goes on and on. Most people respond with things GW has said in the past like “base the model came with etc.” today those rules aren’t there and instead the community at large is much more comfortable applying common sense, where in the past it hadn’t done so before. The reason for this sort of renaissance in rules interpretations and rulings is based in large part on the three points I made above. Simpler rules, timely FAQs, and a firm understanding of GWs intentions and feelings toward RAW based rules abuse. 8th edition is an empowering edition for those who have done battle against the Rules Abuser class of player for multiple editions. Hopefully through tighter rules writing, FAQs, and yearly Chapter Approved we might see an end to the Rules Abuser as someone who shows up; or at least see them as a more commonly derided figure in the 40k competitive, and broader 40k, communities. As always I’d love to read your comments, I think.
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