I recently got into a discussion with somebody, as they tried to explain to me that both Assault weapons and Pistols were actually completely useless in 8th edition. He did not mean "useless" as in "not as good as other options", but as "the rules as written mean they don't give any advantage".

The Basic Rule Book for 8th Edition contains the following phrase regarding "Advancing":

When you pick a unit to move in the Movement phase, you can declare that it will Advance. Roll a dice and add the result to the Move characteristics of all models in the unit for that Movement phase. A unit that Advances can't shoot or charge later that turn.

The section regarding assault weapons states the following:

A model with an Assault weapon can fire even if it Advanced earlier that turn. If it does so, you must subtract 1 from any hit rolls made when firing that weapon this turn.

Likewise the section regarding pistols states the following:

A model can fire a pistol even if there are enemy units within 1" of its own unit, but it must target the closest enemy unit. [...]

The rules in the section 1. Choose Unit to Shoot with states the following:

[...] First, you must pick one of your units to shoot with. You may not pick a unit that Advanced or Fell Back this turn, or a unit that is within 1" of an enemy unit. [...]

His argument was now as follows: Since the rules regarding the shooting phase disallow you from even selecting a unit that Advanced or Fell Back, you never get to section 2., which tasks you with selecting a weapon. Since you can never select that you want to shoot an Assault weapon or a Pistol, you can't fire it. He further mentioned that the rules-as-written do not mention that you can select these units in the shooting phase, only that it would allow you to fire this weapon if you were to select them.

Intuitively, this seems wrong. The intent of the rules clearly seem to be that pistols can be used in close combat, and assault weapons can be used while charging. However, upon looking at the rules-as-written, there seems to be at least some logic to his statements. Is this a simple oversight? Or is there something I am missing entirely?

Emphasis mine on all quotes

5 Answers 5


The Most Important Rule

Basic Rules, Page 6 Sidebar, Summarized:

When you aren't sure of what's supposed to happen, talk with your opponent and apply the most sensible resolution that you can agree on. If you can't agree, roll-off, and apply the victor's resolution.

The fact that this is labeled "The Most Important" implies that this trumps any other rule. Additionally, it relies on sense, rather than interpretation. It would not make sense for the rules to include exceptions which do not apply, regardless of how you interpret the "hard" restrictions on Advancing.

As is true in almost any game, general rules are to apply until an exception says otherwise. WH40k's version of this rule is "Do what makes sense", and an exception to the rules will only ever make sense if the exception can be applied.

Since the rules under Pistol and Assault weapons state they're an exception, those exceptions must apply, since it makes more sense to obey these exceptions than it is to accept they were arbitrarily added to the Basic Rules for no reason.

  • I agree with the idea that they are exceptions, but I guess some people prefer to be rule lawyers and say "But technically..." and "But the rules say..."
    – MechMK1
    Dec 12, 2019 at 6:40
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    @MeckMK1 Some people do prefer to be rule lawyers, and you can prefer not to play games with those people :) Dec 12, 2019 at 12:48
  • @MechMK1 That's kinda the point. If someone says that the rules state one thing, you point out The Most Important Rule. That's the summary of the answer; it doesn't matter what the rules say, so long as it makes the most sense, that both players agree it makes sense, or roll-off to get over yourselves. Dec 12, 2019 at 17:47
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    @question Marks If a "rules-lawyer" is actually treating the rules like laws, then s/he will apply the principles of construction, one of which is that an interpretation which leaves part of a law as having no effect should not be chosen if there is a reasonable interpretation that leaves each part of the law some function. Oct 21, 2021 at 4:04

The rules-as-written do not deny assault weapons and pistols their expected advantage.

From the 8th edition Battle Primer, you can see under Shooting/Weapon Types (pg 6):

Each type of ranged weapon also has an additional rule that, depending upon the situation, might affect the accuracy of the weapon or when it can be fired. These are as follows:

A model with an Assault weapon can fire it even if it Advanced earlier that turn.

Your friend is arguing that Shooting Phase invalidates a unit that advanced from being selected (so, full stop at 3.1), but he may not ignore all the text of the unambiguous, additional rule. They need to be looked at holistically. The rules are not parsed simply by stopping reading when one sees a "can't do that."

It seems completely unlikely of that his interpretation holds any water, but indeed, if your friend remains adamant, do refer to The Most Important Rule, as @Daniel mentions.


The rules work exactly as written, and both weapon types give the expected advantage.

The rules for advancing state that a unit cannot shoot after advancing, but the assault weapon rules override the rule on advancing. Same applies with pistols, their rule overrides the rule about shooting within 1" of an enemy unit, which makes the advanced or in-combat unit eligible for selection during the shooting phase.

One could argue that the wording technically doesn't allow this, but this is how 8th edition's been played for the past two years and Games Workshop has never stepped in to clarify that the rules for assault weapons and pistols are never actually legal, so it's pretty clear they work exactly as expected.

  • Section 1. states "You may not pick a unit that Advanced or Fell Back this turn", as in you cannot even select it first. Of course, I agree with the pragmatic approach that everybody instinctively "got" what the rules meant.
    – MechMK1
    Dec 12, 2019 at 6:38

There is a certain strange logic to your friend's statements, however it ignores one of the most basic 'rules' of rules, namely, the more specific rule overrides the more general rule. In this case the more specific rules are very explicit in saying they are overriding the more general. Warhammer is a game that has a few very general rules, that are modified, overridden or added to by more specific rules and that's the case you have here.

The entire point of an assault weapon is that it can be used along with an advance. The general rule is that a model that has advanced can't shoot, but the specific rules for assault weapons override this.

The same is true of pistols (meant for close combat) overrides the general rule requiring ranged weapons be used at a minimum of 1 inch, by explicitly allowing these specific ranged weapons to be used at close range.

Perhaps the rules could be laid out more clearly, explaining every exception to every rule where the original rule is written, but that would make already pretty hefty rule books even larger, and make it impossible to add new exceptions to base rules as new options and books are released, since it would require including the exception in the original source book.

In a normal game if something like this comes up, follow the most important rule, as mentioned by Daniel here, when in doubt on how something works, each argue your case as to why it should work one way, if neither player can sway the other (or in some odd change both players are swayed to the opposite of their original starting point) do a roll off and apply the result for the remainder of the game.


If a "rules-lawyer" is actually treating the rules like laws, then s/he will apply the principles of construction, one of which is that an interpretation which leaves part of a law as having no effect should not be chosen if there is a reasonable interpretation that leaves each part of the law some function.

Another principle of construction is, as the answer by Andrew says, the more specific provisions take precedenc over mote general ones, unless the is a clear statement to the contrary.

Another is that an interpretation that reaches an absurd result is not to be selected when another reasonable interpretation that does not reach an absurd result is possible.

Yet another is that the purpose of a provision should be considered, particularly when the literal wording is ambiguous.

In this case, all of these principles seem to arrive at the same result, that the specific rules for assault weapons and pistols are exceptions to, and modify, the general rules on advances and ranged weapons.

These are (some of) the principles used to interpret actual laws -- I do not see why they should be less applicable to game rules.

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