Dec 11, 2011


So how do you interpret rules? (Cue smart-alik comments like “by reading them”. You know what I mean!) I know that there at least used to be a big controversy over interpreting rules in a Rules as Written (RAW) or a Rules as Intended (RAI).

RAW was strictly how the rules were written, regardless of any strange consequences. RAI was how the writers intended the game to be played, so any of those strange, unrealistic things that were possible under the RAW were things that you couldn’t do, because the writers did not have that intention in mind.

A fantastic example of these differing views involves turning vehicles. The Dark Eldar vehicles are long and narrow, and some people discovered that if you deployed them side-ways, right up against the edge of the deployment zone, you could turn them straight on your turn and instantly be a few inches closer without expending any movement. At least, that was the RAW ruling. The RAI crowd screamed WAAC as they are opt to do and cried out in unison against such jerk moves.

Now, while there are some problems with the RAW method (mostly that you can find all sorts of ways to abuse the rules if you are clever), RAI is no better to me. Now, rather than allowing people to abuse the game system, you are claiming that you divinely know how the rules should actually be interpreted and what they actually read as is irrelevant.

For a while I sided with the RAW because, despite its flaws, it removed subjectivity from rulings and thus could be most counted upon as consistent (plus with RAI you can still have clever jerks who simply find a way for anything they don’t like to be against how the rules ‘should’ be). Recently(-ish), however, I’ve gradually come to the decision that you should be using a mix of the two.

To do this you begin with everything being RAW, but don’t allow anything that isn’t plainly stated in the rules. Now, of course this can be subjectively done, especially when you consider how confusing the multi-assault rules can get (who goes first, what can each model attack, how do we decide Combat Resolution, can I make a Sweeping Advance, etc.), but you don’t run into quite so much as RAI has.

To illustrate what I mean, I’m going to point to the same thing that Algesan used when he was illustrating Occam’s Razor: the discussion about the assault rules that went on over at B&C for a while.

If you look at the rules, they seem pretty straightforward. You cannot assault a unit other than the one you shot at, except for any passengers if you shot and killed a transport (pages 33 and 67, mid right-hand column for both, specifically the clause beneath the bullets and the Note, respectively).

RAW though, you need to notice two things. The first is that the Clause (from pg. 33) is beneath the header “Disallowed Assaults”, so it must, at some point, disallow you from assaulting. That would be when you shoot and kill a unit. You cannot assault any other unit (because of the clause), nor can you assault the unit you just shot (because it is dead), so you cannot assault at all (hence, disallowed). Then you look at the Note (pg. 67) and we see at the end that it says that you may only assault the passengers if you are allowed to assault.

So, you shoot and kill a Rhino with your Meltagun and are all ready to assault the Las/Plas Squad within. You can do that because of the Note, right? Wrong. Since you killed the unit you shot, the clause disallows you from assaulting and thus, you cannot assault the passengers (since to do so you would need to be allowed to assault, under the restriction in the Note).

There are two explanations from this point, either the entire second half of the Note is self contradictory and pointless, or the Clause does not apply when you kill the unit you shot at (make up a reason for why, but that is the most plausible explanation that makes sense with both the Note and the Clause). Since the Note being useless makes no sense, it must be that the Clause does not apply if you killed your target with shooting (and thus may assault anything you please).

RAW, this is what you get. And this is my problem with a straight RAW interpretation of the rules. Here, when you follow it through, what you end up with is something that directly contradicts what the rules appear to be saying. Instead, you get to this conclusion by assuming something that is not in the rules, verifying it with a phrase from something that is not directly connected to the Assault Rules but, by virtue of not being a rule, drastically changes how the Clause is to be understood, and all the while a single line added to the Clause would make the meaning straightforward and clear.

This is why I am wary of a straight RAW reading of the rules. You need to begin with the assumption that what the rules are written with the intention that you can understand them on a first read through without having to get all technical on certain phrases or words. Or, alternatively, you need to find another interpretation if the one you’re using could be much more easily stated in the rules. This isn’t to say that there is no RAW answer to the above problem, it just isn’t necessarily as plausible in a RAW sense.

For the purpose of a counter-point to the above, I’m going to detail the different assumption that I make to get what the rules appear to say. When confronted with the discrepancy within the Note, I assume that the phrase at the end (specifically, “if it is allowed to assault according to the Assault Rules.”) does not apply to the Clause. That’s it. While the reason for the assumption doesn’t matter too much (because it is an assumption and thus does not need definitive supporting evidence), you could claim that first the Note removes the status for the Clause to disallow an assault (thus it does not trigger the restriction on the Note, although this does require the Note to be considered an Assault Rule, and you could make that case), or you could claim that, despite being under the heading “Disallowed Assaults” the Clause does not actually disallow any assaults. Like I said, not perfectly in line with the RAW, but aside from that more plausible.

And that’s pretty much all I have on the subject. I’ve been working on a number of Vassal games with lists that I haven’t really touched in months, and it is looking to be an interesting experiment that I should have ready in, oh, about a week or so (finals the next few days may postpone that, but we shall see).

Oh, rather than risk forgetting. Trivia: How many Heavy Weapons can you put in a Crusader Squad? I’ll see any attempted answers and give my response in my next post.


  1. Except I say you can stop with pg 33 for RAW. The Clause is a soft condition that only applies at certain times by its formatting. Otherwise it would be another bullet point. So, what conditions would apply? Two, either the unit is destroyed or it isn't.

    If it isn't, then the Clause applies and you must assault it. Too bad if it just failed its Ld test and is falling back, or any casualties were removed to take it out of assault range, you still can only assault that unit.

    If it is destroyed, then it is off the board and doesn't count, so you can assault any other enemy unit that is within range and that you are not disallowed from assaulting. Or as the Note on pg. 67 (read as a clarification note) says: "..., if it is allowed to assault by the assault rules."

    Why has this RAI misconception held on as "RAW"? Because the Clause was a hard condition in 4th Edition. Simple as that. I've seen that more than enough over the last year and several months, where old time players know what they know and don't confuse them with reading the rules newb. Most people are inherently lazy and don't want to think.

    The big problem with RAI vs. RAW comes from GW. Not their "crappy rules writing" because I've been on B&C's OR forum before and even today reading some serious fantasies that come from disregarding RAW. Like Imotekh's Staff of the Destroyer isn't a Staff of Light because it is in the "fluff bit". Disregard that where it is called a Staff of Light is in the section called "Wargear" I guess. The problem comes from GW never providing any Designer's Notes which, in the majority of games I've owned and played, will allow literate players to determine which of any two alternate readings are more correct. Of course, that does not depend on the player having "divine inspiration" about what the writer was trying to say.

    Well, it might not be the big problem. That actually might be that the people who write rules for GW have actually taken professional writing classes and most of the players haven't, so mountains get made out of itty bitty molehills.

  2. Okay, I just can't ignore the irony in your final statement, because that is just what most people on B&C think you were doing with the assault clause.

    I'm still not entirely sure why you're so adamant about the Clause being a soft condition and how that applies to the accuracy of your reading. Is it that in some situations it may not apply, even though the condition for it is met? That would make sense if you take that to mean that it disallows assaults if you are unable to assault the unit you shot at (by it being out of range), but if you killed the unit you shot at then that would be the time that, though the clause would normally apply, it does not (because it is soft). But while that makes sense, it kind of seems contrived, as there is nothing to directly support it in the rules aside from the common assumption that a dead unit doesn't exist (and even that seems contrived at how you apply it to this because there is nothing to point to that as the time when the clause doesn't apply).

    Why can't shooting be the times when the clause applies (so the bullets would always apply, but the clause would only apply if you actually fired)? Or because it doesn't directly prevent you from assaulting (only in conjunction with other rules, such as distance)? There are other explanations for the Clause (either not being soft, or being soft but not for the condition that you claim) and yet you seem very tightly beholden to one specific one, to the exclusion of all others.

    Also, I would like to point out that there is more to it than just the rules being a little different in 4th. You said it yourself, people don't like to think. They like what they read to be simple and straight-forward. Unless you look for that discrepancy in the Note, you aren't going to assume that the Clause doesn't apply if you killed the unit you shot at (demonstrated by the long discussion on the thread). You can argue it, but that isn't quite a straight-forward reading with just the clause. It has held on as RAW because most people don't notice that the Note has that problem, not because they don't want to change the way they played in 4th.

  3. A stab at the trivia:
    A CS can have 4 heavy weapons, one of each except either ML or MM. However they will all be on the same initiate.
    The option line reads: 'One initiate may be armed with the following weapons: weap1 for x pts; weap2 for y pts; etc'. The options rule states that he only loses the weapon he was originally armed with (ie. the bolter) when you buy a new one.
    So since 'following weapons' is pluralised and there is no 'or' between the options he can buy one of each option. The only exception is that he can't have both the ML and MM since there is an 'or' there so you can only buy one of them.
    If you really want he can also buy a power fist and bolt pistol and a power weapon and second bolt pistol as well.
    This initiate comes for the low, low price of 91 pts.
    Why not push the boat out and buy him frags as well?

  4. The thing is, for me, the reading is simple & straightforward. Difference in my experiences probably, but being heavily babysitted by a sister 12 years older than me who is both an engineer and English major, plus my stint as a technical writer, plus my stint in being a answer guy for some old board games, plus my time as a semi-staff weenie in the Army, plus dealing in Christian apologetics.

    Bullet lists are a shorthand used to make it more clear in repetitive type sentences. So, the Disallowed Assaults section could be written as:
    A unit may not declare an assault if it is already locked in close combat. A unit may not assault if they ran in the Shooting phase. A unit may not assault if they have gone to ground. If a unit shot RF or Heavy weapons in the Shooting phase, they may not assault. Units that are falling back may not declare assaults.

    Lot messier that way, hence, the bullets. In fact, that is the way it is written in 4th Edition, all the sentences, so if I reverse converted to bullets, then it would have a bullet that reads "may only declare a charge...". In 4th, you actually couldn't even declare a charge (assault) against any other unit, which some of the B&C OR guys were quick to quote exactly as their defense of the 5th Edition rules.

    This actually could become a classic comedy routine along the lines of "Who's On First" if the discussion got played straight.
    "Okay, I'm going to declare an assault with this unit."
    "Hey, you can only assault the unit you shot at."
    "Okay, I'll do that, point the unit out too me."
    "No, you can't, the unit died in the shooting phase."
    "Okay, I'll assault where they were."
    "No, no, no, you must assault a unit, not an open space."
    "Okay, I'll assault this unit over here."
    "No, you didn't shoot at it, you have to assault the unit you shot at."
    "Okay, show me the unit I shot at to assault."

    "Are those guys in the game anymore?"
    "Well, no, they are dead and removed from play."
    "So, that is a kill point, not a unit. I'm going to assault this unit over here."
    "No, no, no, you must assault the unit you shot at."
    "Okay, I'll assault the unit I shot at, where on the board is it?"
    "It's not on the board anymore."
    "So, there is no unit in play I shot at, right?"
    "Well, yeah, but you still shot at a unit so you can only assault that one."
    "Even if it doesn't exist?"
    "So, I cannot assault because of a nonexistent unit that is now just a kill point?"

    Heh, you are bringing out my old Slimelord tendencies. I'll just declare the assault against the dead unit's location and multiassault another unit.

  5. The problem with your dialogue is that each time it comes around, it ignores the beginning. So you cannot assault any other unit than the one you shot at, and you cannot assault that unit, so you cannot assault at all. Being unable to assault the only unit you are allowed to assault does not allow you to assault something else by itself.