Is 8th Edition the End of the Rules Abuser?

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.

This will probably have to be me with this article…

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.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About SaltyJohn

John has been playing Warhammer 40k since the 3rd edition box set with Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and weird green palm trees were in the set. He is currently a 40k Head Judge for the Las Vegas Open, the largest 40k tournament in the world. An avid board gamer, a huge fan of video games, and a guest spot on Geek and Sundry as a "Historian" during an episode of "Game the Game" round out his geek credentials. You can catch "Salty" John on TFG Radio's Twitch Show, and Podcast, as well as find him streaming video games on Twitch on the TFG Radio Twitch page from time to time.

21 Responses to “Is 8th Edition the End of the Rules Abuser?”

  1. Avatar
    Robert Nathan January 18, 2018 4:20 am #

    Well said! I wouldn’t say abuse is gone but it is lessened compared to 7th. My main issue with 8th is the amount of books one codex army may need but I may just go with a digital codex in future as they should get updated with faqs and other rule changes 🙂

    • SaltyJohn
      SaltyJohn January 18, 2018 11:33 am #

      I prefer digital at this point too usually. However if I am running a list that only uses one source I will sometimes buy the hardback.

  2. Avatar
    Nogle January 18, 2018 4:31 am #

    Great article. The modeling issue came up a bunch this week with the whole proxy situation on a few sites

    • SaltyJohn
      SaltyJohn January 18, 2018 11:33 am #

      Yes, it’s becoming the new territory of the abuser.

  3. Avatar
    WestRider January 18, 2018 6:46 am #

    If only Wheaton’s Law were an actual unbreakable law of physics, this would never have become a thing in the first place. Sadly, it isn’t 😉

  4. Avatar
    GeekmasterK January 18, 2018 8:09 am #

    My thoughts:

    Rules abusers aren’t gone completely. I’ve seen people abuse the RAW, even after an FAQ has come out with the RAI. Sometimes, they’re unaware of the FAQ, but other times, they just chose to ignore it. Still, 8th edition has made it easier to catch these people in the act, and call them out. I’ve found that this does act as a deterrent to potential rules abusers. So, no, rules abuse isn’t gone, but it isn’t as prevalent as it was.

    Great article, by the way!

    • SaltyJohn
      SaltyJohn January 18, 2018 11:35 am #

      Thank you! No, they’ll never be completely gone, more the point I was trying to make is that the new edition has made them less prevalent and has weakened their ability to succeed.

  5. Avatar
    Rob Butcher January 18, 2018 12:32 pm #

    The speed of the FAQs is unprecedented ! Before we had to wait for a new edition before corrections were made to a GW game. (Or in the case of Battlefleet Gothic it’s been 14 years since a rules abuser beat me at WhW and still not changed!!) But in 8th Edition 40K already flyers, objective secured, conscripts, characters and smite have been addressed. Additionally, points have been altered to stop FW models being taken in 2000 points battles…. they were really made to show off painting skills NOT as models to dominate games.

    I do though find that sad that clarifications have to made two weeks after a Codex is released as FAQs …. purely to stop rules abusers. It was interesting listening to Warhammer Tv this week about the role of rules writers – to write rules clearly so they only have one correct meaning.

    Has anyone noticed that rules abusers are leaving 40K and playing something else?

    • SaltyJohn
      SaltyJohn January 18, 2018 1:22 pm #

      I sincerely hope so. I know of a few that have dropped out, but there are still a good number of them.

    • Avatar
      Jural January 19, 2018 6:04 pm #

      To be fair, a lot of the FAQ address legitimate grey areas. The Tyranid FAQ, for example, had some pretty important rulings, and really the only cheesy thing they clarified is that you can’t launch spore mines with biovores from one hive fleet and have them become from a different HF!

  6. Avatar
    Brakhal January 18, 2018 5:28 pm #

    There’s still room to abuse, they will probably always be.

    For instance, I saw a couple of eldars playing unchargeable serpents, as their rules state all measures are taken from the hull, and you can put them in the long base. Any model with a base can’t get 1″ close to the vehicle hull, so they can’t engage them, RAW.

    As a result of the same rules, tanks can engage models in a second floor, while other non infantry units can’t.

    Also, a Spore Mine as the warlord: they never award victory points, so they are a sneaky way to deny that objectives.

    • Avatar
      Tomguycot January 19, 2018 6:02 am #

      Why would you even play against someone doing that and I have trouble imagining a TO actually allowing modeling for advantage.

      • Avatar
        Venkarel January 19, 2018 7:57 am #

        The sad thing is the wave spent thing is not modeling for advantage. The base that comes with the kit makes them more than an inch off the ground. It is a rules mistake and should be corrected. My favorite is non infantry can drive over ruin walls as long as they have the movement to go up and down thus ending there move on the ground floor.

    • SaltyJohn
      SaltyJohn January 19, 2018 8:42 am #

      It won’t go away, no. Rather my point is the simplified rule set and the clear indicators from GW in regards to the intention of the rules and their disdain for these types of RAW abuses empowers, to a certain extent, TOs and Judges to combat the Rules Abuser in ways that previously were more difficult.

      • Avatar
        Brakhal January 19, 2018 9:24 am #

        Totally agreed, they’ve been doing a great job preventing a lot of abuses in 8th. But it’s hard to avoid every single weird RAW interactions when making a game this complex (even after the simplification).

  7. Avatar
    John January 18, 2018 6:14 pm #

    Were ALL of those questions posed as examples from “Josh Death”?

    • SaltyJohn
      SaltyJohn January 19, 2018 8:43 am #

      Ha, no. I don’t recall any of them being his. Josh does have a few good ones though 😀

  8. Avatar
    Marandamir January 19, 2018 12:26 pm #

    RAW vs RAI has always been the paradigm for competitive gaming. Ideally when a rule is in question you want to go with the RAI. However, language, biases, and people’s differing opinions make it challenging to come to a consensus on what the ‘intention’ actually is. RAW was, alas, the gold standard for arbitrating rules as it’s the only thing that is actually concrete (as long as the language wasn’t vague or bad). I learned to play with RAW because of this concept and I also found that players had weird ideas about RAI and many times would selectively use RAI and RAW to support their weird arguments.

    So in the end I don’t think looser rules is gonna affect much. If anything it’ll make loopholes easier to find. The GW faq/errata changes will put a dent in the abuse if only because it invalidates fully painted lists if you are using edge cases. Like buying 5+ flyers to abuse flying rules or 12 malfic lords to spam smite. I hope you enjoy having those flyers on your shelf after the FAQ comes out 😛 Maybe you can sell em for a loss on ebay along with the other cheeseball players who also tried to abuse the same rule.

  9. Avatar
    Jural January 19, 2018 6:09 pm #

    I will say that sometimes what people call “abusive” is really just the only way to read the rules. Like Toe In Cover flying monstrous creatures an edition ago! Clearly it is abusive, clearly that was an exactly correct interpretation of the rules.

    Those sorts of abuses still seem to be here in 8th Edition (really, littering the battlefield with spore mines? Really, I can’t shoot your character because there is a tiny unit I can’t see that is 1 inch closer? Really, the Imperium and Chaos have that many options to pull from and customize???)

    But these are so much more fun to play against. It really is the gotcha moment, (followed by the fight, followed by the TO flipping a coin…) that was frustrating.

    The flip side this edition is that you are going to be “gotcha’d” all over the place if you don’t keep up with the new codex rules, FAQ, Chapter Approved, etc… OF course your opponent won’t be cheating, but it will be just as frustrating…

  10. Avatar
    Victor H. January 30, 2018 2:11 am #

    To be fair tho, i’m not sure how much of 8th was RAW vs RAI edge cases (genuienly don’t know, hasn’t happened to me much personally except one weird ynnari case but… yeah ynnari);

    it’s more that GW has been “updating” (nerfing) alot of undercosted units at a fairly breakneck pace by their standards. Where before if something was broken / undercosted it would remain that way until the next edition… imo there’s a difference between building a power list (conscripts , horrors, cultists, girllyman gun line, imperial soup, commander spam etc etc) and abusing rules.
    Horrors alone got 1) a point bump 2) a smite nerf 3) another point bump 4) went from 4+ across the board to 4/5/6++ and 5) as per beta smite rules can’t really manifest smite anymore anyway.

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