Special rules – are they more now? Part 1

I have always thought that special rules is something not to be used in a miniature game. I played 40k for a long time and really had my head stuck in the sand. But the amount of special rules for lowly guardsmen or termagaunts was extremely much for low point miniatures in the later codex’. I felt like I spend more times in the rulebook than on the table top.

Then along came DZC. The basic units in the army were basically the same but still small differences in the stat lines made for entirely different gaming experience. The Sabres had the armour – the Hunter the speed. With fairly small differences you got an entirely different gaming experience. But lately I felt that DZC have startet with lots and lots of special rules. I started to write my standard whining post but thought that this time I would motivate it.

Beware. It’s a long one…


…and a little whiny…


Before I present my data I need to describe what I have done. I have counted the amount of positive special rules that I think are important and positive to the unit’s effectiveness. I have removed some rules I think is bad for the unit (special rules that gives the unit a distinct weakness is a good thing for me as I’m not used to it from 40k – it gives the units lots of characters and a weakness to exploit in the game of DZC (aka Rock, Scissor, Paper, Lizard and Spock) and I have removed special rules I feel do not do so much.

Ignored special rules

Special rules are the ones in the stat lines that are fairly standard. To sum it up, these are the ones I have removed because they provide a negative effect on the model straight of and thus not something I would like to discuss because I think they are amazing;

Lumbering, Call it in, Arc caster, Living weapons, CA, Cloud formation, Tech killer, Frag, Reckless abandon.

Besides the above I have also removed the following rules as I consider them part of the basic games, all armies have standard access to them or I just don’t care;

Arc, SC, FM, Area, AA, Alt, RW, SA, Mass, Command, Old ones upgrade, Walker, Gate, Sinister cargo, Weapons team, Active counter-measures, Sub terrain, Pass save (not on inf) 5+ or worse.

As you see this is a highly subjective list. Command units have crap loads of special rules but they are in my opinion equal – i e all of the armies have them “equally”. Mass is another good example – I have ignored Shaltari’s gate rules for instance, and it might be something other want to consider but as all Shaltari units have it I felt they were not needed for this analysis. Passive save is something people want to include – fine but I felt that Passive 5+ or worse on standard vehicles/aircrafts are such a intricate part of the standard units that I felt they should be ignored in this case.

On the other side you have several special rules many people feel should not be included. Skimmer I have included which I suspect many will not. But it is a special rule valid only for certain situations. Highly subjective. Demolisher I include as a special rule. It is because it defines an special advantage to a unit that have serious game effect. But I think most people consider it part of the basic game as much as the Walker special rule. I wanted to include the pesky Evasive in my list and so I thought it fair to include the Skimmer bonus as well. So I assume lots of people will have an opinion on this. But this is my, subjective, list. If you want to make your own and answer my post please feel free – I would love to get your input.

In some cases I have decided that a special rule are warranted to count as several special rules because it’s complexity or that it contains several other special rules. So I have taken some consideration to the complexity of the special rule as I think simple special rules are “better” than complex.

I have also included fast roping I saw now. I’m lazy so I’m not going to redo it. Let’s just pretend fast roping is a special rule that UCM players always use and that it us just as effective as Dispersed formation.

The theories

Before I made this study I had a highly subjective opinion. After this study I will still have a highly subjective opinion but I will try to argue for/against my subjective opinions based on my list to answer the following questions.

Theory 1. At the start there was almost no special rules.

This theory is why I started out with DZC. All rules were in the stat. So let’s see how it goes.

Theory 2. Special rules inflation in the releases.

My basic idea here is that newer units have gone away from the original formula of “same, same but different” that we saw initially and in the early releases. Also I think they have more special rules.

Theory 3. Newer units have better special rules.

Again rather subjective. But I want to base my opinion on a bit more than…well…nothing.

Theory 4. More than 10 units have special rules they could go without.

This is also pretty self explanatory. I want to see if there are units I can think could just remove a special rule and they wouldn’t give a damn.

Theory 5. Special rules are better than stats.

This has a basis in my opinion that special rules are harder to put points to and thus should be judged harder. In case of doubt the points should be set higher. Special means special and if everyone is special then no one is.

I think most academics seeing my list of theories would cry…Let them. It’s just a game, dammit.

Pre-word before the list

So I have divided the list into different departments. First original rulebook stuff. Then the next waves. And last the current experimental rules. So I consider it three waves (only two for the resistance). So I will present my list for each faction from then basic rulebook first. I’m hoping the charts are pretty self explanatory. First are the units. Then the amount of special rules. Last the special rules I consider part of that unit.

Wave 1. The basic rulebook-stuffy

UCM unit Special rules
Albatross 0
Condor 0
Raven 0
Archangel 0
Seraphim 1 Demolish
Falcon 1 Evasive
Sabre 1 Articulated
Rapier 1 Articluated
Gladius 1 Articluated
Scimitar 1 Marksman touch
Wolverine 1 Scout
Bear 0
Kodiak 1 IF
Legionaire 0
Praetorian 2 Dodge, fast roping

So the UCM have an average of 0,57 special rules. And most of them are rather basic. I don’t think it is much to say. That fast roping…

Scourge unit Special rules
Despoiler 2 Demolisher, plasma burst
Marauder 0
Intruder 0
Corsair 2 Demolisher, plasma burst
Minder 1 Scout
Hunters 3 Skimmer, Demolisher, plasma burst
Reaper 1 Skimmer
Slayer 3 Skimmer, Demolisher, plasma burst
Tormentor 2 Skimmer, Flame
Prowler 1 Scout
Desolator 1 Eye of the storm
Invader 1 Speed boost
Warriors 1 Combined fire
Razorworm 2 Dodge, bloodthirst

The Scourge clock at 1,43 special rules in average. The plasma burst is of course highly debatable if I should include it but then again. If we don’t see it on the tabletop I can argue that it could be removed for no loss what so ever.

PHR units Special rules
Poseidon 0
Neptune 0
Triton 0
Athena 1 Demolisher
Ares 1 Scanning array
Phobos 0
Menchit 1 Flame
Odin 0 Passive save
Enyo 1 Demolisher
Hyperion 1 Sunspear
Zeus 1 Aegis shield
Janus 1 Scout
Taranis 2 IF, Demolish
Juno 0
Immortals 1 Snipers
Sirens 2 Dodge, Agility

0,75 special rules for the PHR. I overall think the PHR have a good balance here. Special rules are where they should be with demolish on walk on units, Scanning array to make Ares more adorable and so on. There is little wonder to why PHR are the most popular faction.

Shaltari units Special rules
Gaia 1 Side effect
Eden 1 Side effect
Spirit 1 Side effect
Warspear 0
Thunderbird 1 Evasive
Tomahawk 1 Skimmer
Kukri 1 Skimmer
Jaguar 0
Ocelot 2 Awesome power, demolisher
Yari 3 Scout, skimmer, through cover
Haven 1 Skimmer
Coyote 2 Eject, pass 4+
Braves 3 Warsuit, airburst shells, DF
Firstborns 3 Warsuit, incapacitate, DF

The Shaltari enter the same as Scourge with 1,43 special rules in average. Both the Skimmer and Side effect are something we could argue for and against for. I included Side effect to take some of the army´s unique overall special rules into effect.

Overall we see in average around 1 special rule per unit and many of those are considered part of the basic game. No onder since they have been there from the start. Now the next wave becomes a bit more difficult I would say:

Wave 2. The First Expansion

Snipers 5 Dodge, Evasive, DF, Sniper, Precision small arms
Eagle 0
Ferrum 3 Drone connected, new drones, drones does not give KP
Starsprite 1 Focus fire
Longbow 2 IF, Smoke
Katana 1 Smoke launchers
Fireblade 2 Smoke launchers, Flame

The next wave average on 2 in special rules. That is 4 times as many than the original rulebook. And some of them are pointless. Snipers could go without both Evasive and Dodge without any problems. It would even fit. DF means they spread out for cover. That’s it. It would be enough. For the Ferrum I have increase the amount of special rules. The drones and their ability to spread out and not award Kp are vital parts of the Ferrum’s special rules. At the same time it costs points. 160 or so. The Ferrum’s ability lies in the standard rules though. With both AT, AA and toughness it is an amazing unit and it is understandable I see more of it than what I see Sabres in UCM armies.

Destroyers 4 DF, pass 4+, Blast their way in, tough
Annhilator 3 IF, Demolisher, Transition
Reavers 0
Harbingers 1 Demolisher
Stalkers 0
Ravagers 0

The Scourge end up at 1,33. The Destroyers are a bit much to me. Remove DF. For the rest the specal rules feel motivated and overall I pretty happy with this wave to Scourge. Stalkers and Ravagers really show how unit’s without special rules can change the entire army’s feel without special rules.

Apollo 4 Transition, Short hop, Through cover, Air drop
Erebos 2 Through cover, EM disruption
Hades 4 IF, Strafe, Black and repair nanomachines
Mercury 3 Scout, Scanner (incl skyhammer missile IF)
Angelos 2 Skimmer, Demolisher
Helios 1 Skimmer

With 2,67 in average special rules the PHR wanted to start to compete. The new units compensated the other armies effective units with lots and lots of special rules. The Hades got 4 special rules (the sad Nemesis only get 1). On the other hand. Special rules doesn’t help either the Erebos nor the Angelos a fat lot. Apollos was well recognized by the last Invasion winner though.

Dreamsnare 2 Through cover, shield boost
Firedrake 2 Thorugh cover, auxillary gate
Totem 2 Shield, lightning reflexes
Caiman 1 Skimmer
Tarantula 2 Climber, Gravity cannon
Birdeater 1 Climber

1,67 for the Shaltari. And most stuff are very usable to the army. Again we see that some special rules are unbalanced and how unfair it is to consider the Firedrake’s auxilliry gate only one special rule. The Totem’s lightning reflex is also extremely good. Many of the special things lies in the combined stuff. The Dreamsnare’s special rule shield boost only comes into effectiveness when it is together with other units. And at that point their passive save becomes better than 5+ which warrants another special rule according to my list but is not included.

Then we have the big one. Resistance;

Resistance units Special rules
Leviathan 3 Hovercraft hard to hit, may disembark and shoot, Barrage
Kraken 2 Hovercraft hard to hit, may disembark and shoot
Lifthawk 0
Breaching drill 1 Drill
barrelbomber 2 Devestator, Goliath
Hellhog 3 Strafe, focus fire, transition
Cyclones 1 Barrage
Rocket techhnical 1 Focus fire
Gun technical 0
Gun wagons 0
Storm wagons 1 Barrage
Fire wagon 1 Flame
Hannibals 0
Zhukovs 1 Devestator
Battle bus 2 Firing ports, focus fire
Jackson 1 Spider launcher
Alexander 3 Demolisher, Devastator, Toughened shells
Thunderstorm 3 Hovercraft hard to hit, may disembark and shoot, Demolisher
Fighters 1 Focus fire
Veterans 2 Dodge, Combined fire
Freeriders 4 Scout, Evasive, DF, Bikes
Berzerkers 1 Dodge
Archangel 1 Evasive
Marines 2 Dodge, fast roping

Average special rules. 1,5. Again there are some things that comes into play. I have stated the hovercrafts as having 2 special rules. One for getting a skimmer bonus and one for letting units get off and shoot. The second part could be considered part of the embarked unit’s advantage but I included it on the Hovercrafts instead – thus lowering the amount of special rules in the army. Again we see that many unit’s effectiveness doesn’t lie in the special rules. The Lifthawk, Cyclones and the Gun wagons are example of effective units because of their equipment and stat. In other cases we see a unit is entirely dominated by special rules like the Freeriders.

Wave 3. The current experimental rules

Mortar 2 Concussion, mortar,
Hazard 3 DF, Hazard, Focus fire
Flak teams 0
Phoenix 1 Demolisher

Ucm goes down from 2 special rules to 1,5. Note that the Phoenix doesn’t have any special rules worth mentioning as very special. The Hazard suits have the DF and I think no one would have noticed if it had disappeared as they have the suit to protect them from falling masonry. Both the DF and Evasive rules feels like additions “just because” without someone asking “Do we really need it?” on many units.

Eviscerators 3 DF, Tough, 4+ pass save
Oppressor 1 Demolisher
Screamer 5 +1 to search obj, +1 acc, reduce CQB, halve point, evasive
Raider 1 Flame
Vampires 1 Grasping

The Scourge final wave is on average 2 which is the highest of the Scourge three waves. Besides the Screamer the Scourge is fairly balanced of special rules. The Screamer is way to special and are just an excuse to use the Raider anyway so in my opinion it should be re-designed completely. The Raider should have much less MF and shot and DP to fit the army and not be ten times better than the very weak Tormentor.

Valkyrie 4 Evasive, Dodge, Jump jet pack, Jump in jump out
Snipers 2 Snipers, evasive
Medusa 9 DF, Dodge, Evasive, Focus, strafe, IF, Levitated, Drone com, White nanomachines
Nemesis 1 Devestator

Average of 4… I blame the Medusa. For 90 points she is insane. For 100 as well… there is just no point in having any Ares as long as she exist. And we will see her more than Ares because of her special rules. Evasive 2 and removal of DF are two things to start with. Or keep DF and decrease her speed from the way over the top 9″ to MF of 4″ or so. I just don’t like a unit that can stand in the center of the table and the opponent sometimes must ignore the unit because he need to actually kill something he have a chance to kill. Like a 150 pts tank created to survive nuclear bombs or something. You know…weaker units. Clearly they could skip a lot of her rules and She’d still be valid. People would just have to start positioning her right instead of just in the center. Use cover and attack – that sort of thing. Removal of strafe would be nice, levitated is something she could do half a meter over the ground so remove that. Dodge…well she will most likely never enter a building so let’s ditch that to make absolutely sure she will not end up in CQB except in extreme cases. So left could be DF, Evase 2+, Focus, Strafe and White nanomachines. People would still very much take her but just not use her always as the main tank of each freaking PHR army.

Valkyries are a unit adding much needed mobility to the PHR. Still. Evasive is just stupid to include. If it ain’t going to be used then it can be removed. Besides…aren’t they scout as well? I missed that. In contrast the Nemesis saw several games in latest Invasion and that is with only one special rule. Well done, Hawk. Extremely well done indeed.

Do I mention that Snipers Evasive could go as well? They have soft cover in buildings. Let’s use that. If a tank see them shooting and it shoot back having a cloak will not help if the AT shot goes through the wall in front of them bringing a large chunk of the wall down on the snipers. But two special rules are only 2.

Gharal 4 Skimmer, flame, demolish, pass 4+
Ronin 1 Alpha strike
Samurai 1 Flame
Pungari 2 Ignore soft cover, Subservient

Another third wave that have the highest special rules. Although only at 2 in average. This time I feel the rules are relevant though. Gharal is a HQ and I can understand the need for his special rules. Also, they are all basic special rules. Overall I like this wave.

Attack ATV 4 DF, chem (count as two), evasive
Scout ATV 4 DF, Evasive, Disruption arrays, Enhanced targeting arra
Sappers 2 Demolish, endless range

Stefan have tested all the new Resistance units against me and while attack ATV are not something I consider so dumb I would rather give them and Scout ATV active countermeasures and remove DF. The Attack ATV’s have a special chart which is awkward and why I count their chem-rules as two special rules. With active counter measure they could have no evasive as well (goes for both version of ATV’s). If you want to protect them – by them a transport to soak the fire. Evasive and DF is just another word for “Do not use transports in Dropzone commander” and that is never a good thing for a game that wants you to use transports.

The Scout ATC have many special rules. Again I missed scout, I see. Dammit! Oh well. But what makes them horrible are the range of countered 36″. Come on, Hawk! In DZC ranges should be low! Not extremely high. Removal of DF, Evasive and the range would mean they need a Kraken to be useful. That is a good thing. We’ll see what happens.

Sappers. Well they are special. Freaking special but mostly so because of their limited weapons. I feel much more confident bitching and moaning about the DF and evasive units so I claim the Sappers are a cool addition although highly varied in their effectiveness.


So that is that for part 1. Next time I will ad another chart where I judge units on “best” “average” and “weak”, see if the units have more or less special rules and discuss the theories and try to “prove” or “disprove” them. I hope you enjoy this long rant. I will post it now but go through spelling errors later.

Again. Because I’m lazy. And it’s late. And my wife told me to clean up or else…

5 Responses to Special rules – are they more now? Part 1

  1. I think there are a few things wrong with the premise in some areas. Such as the Resistance, if you are going to average an armies special rules when it has more models in average compared to all the other armies in the same book well an issue occurs. I would like to see the breakdown of special rules for the four original factions combined with the base rules and Reconquest.

    I understand that special rules can destroy a game. Having played 40k and watched the argument over rules and their meaning in conjunction with special rules. . . Ugh. . .

    • Thank you for your comment! I don’t really think that special rules destroy the games if used correctly. They add value to units where the stat is not enough, they can give character to units as well. But special rules are not the thing creating character. There are many units in this list that manages lots of character and style of play with only one special rule.

      The choice of what is a special rule is in my list highly subjective though and I think basically everyone else will get a different type of list. Next time I will use Termagaunts from 40k as an example of the amount of special rules you need to know to compare.

      • I have found that Hawk has been leaning towards universal rules and they are trying to make a broad category. I have a feeling that once they get another book in, there might not be any new universal rules for a while. They will likely start using older individual rules as well like cloud formation

  2. Wow, where to start.
    Firstly – I don’t agree with much, if not any of what you have said.
    Secondly adding and removing special rules because they don’t fit your agenda is poor form.

    I won’t go into detail about everything that I disagree about as we would be here too long.
    I think your initial summary of what is a special rule and what is not a special rule is way off.
    But, as a starter to include certain passive saves and evasive countermeasures but not include active countermeasures and the remaining passive saves is very contradictory.
    To be honest I would not include any, as they are part of the stat line which you are so enamored with.

    Also you really pick on the Praetorian Snipers as a unit with too many special rules. In their first showing they had “digital gillies” and the sniper/precision small arms and they were awful. When they were updated Hawk removed digital gillies and gave them evasive 1 and dispersed formation as these were existing special rules within the game (to stream-line the amount of special rules). Plus they are Praetorians and need the dodge. The unit is almost perfect. The only problem is the amount of bases you are required to take.

    I could go on about a lot of the units you have singled out but I feel I am probably wasting my energy.

    Finally, there is no final army comparison (with everything included)

    I like these articles that cause debate. I hope that I am not causing any offense, as that is not my intention.

    • No offence taken, man! Now if you would read this and directly post on the forum “Nah…I’m don’t feel like hanging out on the saturday during Invasion.” _Then_ I think I would take offence 🙂

      The main idea I had was that as I don’t like the special rules and think the stat should be used as much as possible, the question of what a special rule is became apparent I need to define for myself. As you say, which is completely right, considering what I include as a special rule is way off. It is by far not a hard set list. For instance I could very much get away with either only including rules under the “special rule”-sections of the rulebook and expansion or only go by special rules not actually included among the rules (only on the specific units).

      But at the same time – for me a special rule is something I consider special. Not the placement in the rules. Just if I consider it special. And then I try to consider if it is a special rule adding value to a unit or making it more fun or if you could do something with what I consider the statline. With all these highly subjective parts I’m fully aware there is not a single being that should take a look at my list and say “yeah – seems about right”. there are just to many variables. And so I didn’t try to find a overall consensus on what a special rule is as that would be more unfair to my opinion on the special rules. Using Your definition to what I should subjective think doesn’t really work. Hence I made a list going through each unit. Now I have a basis on what I consider special and the next post will discuss if I need to revise my subjective opinions or, when having the list in front of me, can still argue for my opinion. I haven’t actually done it yet. This list took a while.

      The Snipers are a good example. Stefan have used them many times when he play UCM but Evasive and Dodge have never really gotten into play. Of course Scourge doesn’t have machine guns here and there and this affect my opinion as well. We must always consider that a player views is not the same as the designer’s view. They have a whole other scope to consider. But I picked on the snipers a bit because they have a few special rules that are there but does not change how the unit behaves or affect much on the effectiveness. So we are down to character. The snipers special rule allowing them to fire full range is a good special rule that gives character. And I think that rule would have been enough together with the later added DF.

      But it is highly, highly subjective. If I recall right the snipers got a boost as well because initially they weren’t used that much. But they had a version of evasion and dodge initially and weren’t used until they got DF. I think that shooting at full range and DF are the unit’s key. The rest – nah. At the same time we must consider them against flak guns – they are special snipers and thus should be special. What is needed for that is up to designers and to each person’t opinion. I am definitely only (at best) right for my opinion. And the idea with this blog post is that I want to confirm if I just made stuff up in my head or, when putting it out in a list, I need to revise it.

      But if a unit need to have several special rules to be considered balanced then I wonder if the unit should not be reconsidered and redesigned rulewise.