40K: Overlapping Abilities

We’re back with another edition of rules you might have missed. This time we’re looking at abilities that do the same thing…or do they?

As we’re all playing more and more games we keep running across interesting situations. A lot of these things were missed at first glance because we just assumed “that’s how it worked before, so that must be how it works now.” However, as we’ve talked about in a previous article, this is a new edition – flush that line of thinking at start over. Look at the rules from a new set of eyes and you’ll start to notice new things.

But before we dive into this edition of rules you might have missed, I want to define some terminology so we are all on the same page.

Stacking or Stack – (referring to abilities that “stack”) – Abilities or rules with bonuses that are cumulative.

Overlapping – (referring to abilities that do the same thing) – Abilities or rules with similar terminology or effects that trigger simultaneously.

Overload “The Stack”

So here was the situation. We were playing a game with a Lord of Contagion. He was the Warlord and had rolled for his Warlord Trait and received “Tenacious Survivor” and we started playing.


Eventually he took some hits and failed his saves and started to lose wounds. That’s when we remembered he had a two different rules that were at play here. As most folks are aware, Plague Marines and the Lord of Contagion have an ability called “Disgustingly Resilient” which does the following:

Now, both of these effects pretty much do the same thing, right? Only  Disgustingly Resilient is on a 5 or 6, were as Tenacious Survivor is only on a 6. We just rolled once per wound lost and didn’t think anything of it. But after the game we started looking at both abilities. “Why would you ever want Tenacious Survivor with Nurgle? It seems terrible – it’s worse than you’re ability” we thought. I thought, well maybe there was something in the Designer’s Commentary about it. And there was…sort of:

Well that doesn’t really help much because it only referring to how those rules interact when you’re dealing with multiple wounds and not when the abilities are stacking.

But wait: Do those abilities Stack or do they Overlap? The short answer is yes. You get both abilities.

Both abilities do overlap. They both trigger “when this unit (or warlord in this case) loses a wound…” so they totally overlap. In cases where abilities trigger at the same time, it’s up to the active player to determine when they resolve. It’s in the rules:

Both abilities also stack. The abilities are different names and neither are “re-rolls” which is the only case we could determine that abilities don’t stack.


This all goes back to the way abilities used to work in previous editions. A lot of folks are just assuming that they don’t stack, however, if that was the case then GW should have been more clear and intentional. Just like they were when they spelled it out for the way Fortune works with the Avatar of Khaine:

Those two abilities DO overlap, but the do NOT stack.

So we have a case where GW is very clear on one set of abilities and another where I’m sure folks will argue they were not clear. So for those folks I would ask what happens when the Molten Body ability fails and the Avatar gets to use Tenacious Survivor?

Different Abilities. Different Triggers (check the wording). Those don’t overlap at all. But they DO stack.

Fun times. Anyone else ready for a quick FAQ with examples yet? Until then, if you come across rules or ability interactions that are a tad wonky and you’re not 100% clear, your best bet is to dice off… However, this one seems pretty clear to me.


As always: check your Datasheets! Welcome to Warhammer 40k 8th Edition.

  • Christie Bryden

    SO, basicaly you roll the 5/6 first, then if that fails you can try to roll a 6.

    • OldHat

      …or would it be better to shed the 6 first to knock out a few (if any) and then go big?

      • vladmech

        Statistically that shouldn’t make a difference what order you roll them though, right?

        • OldHat

          I feel like it should. But I am awful at math, so…

          • Heinz Fiction

            It doens’t make a difference.

          • OldHat

            Show your work!

          • Heinz Fiction

            Probabilities of sequential dice rolls all stack multiplicatively. When X is the number of wounds you have to save against, it doesn’t matter if you calculate X*5/6*4/6 or X*4/6*5/6

          • OldHat

            This is why I got a D in Algebra.

          • Heinz Fiction

            From a time-management point of view though, you should roll the saving throw with the higher probability first. The likelyhood of not even having to do the second is better in that case 😉

          • Agent of Change

            Alternatively if you have a situation where wounds are inflicted and multiple abilities apply you could easily roll all the abilities simultaneously for each wound, In teh case grab a die of one color needing 5+ and a die of another color needing a 6 and roll them together for each wound and if either succeeds that wound is ignored.

            the order doesn’t matter if both abilities apply and there is no penalty for failing either roll that affects the other. roll them together for each wound, roll the lower or the higher, statistically it’s all identical.

          • Heinz Fiction

            But then please make sure your opponent knows in before which color is for which roll :p

          • NNextremNN

            That would actually increase his chance if he already passed 2 saves he shouldn’t be able to throw 3 more saves for that one wound which didn’t was saved from the first rolls.

          • Agent of Change

            you are rolling 6 dice for 3 wounds you’d be rolling 2 dice for each wound. covering both abilities for each wound on a per wound basis. which would be the same as rolling all the dice for one ability and then re-rolling failed successes on the first ability as teh roll for the second ability.

            The point is as long as long as each wound is ignored if any ability passes, and you don’t roll more than one die per ability per wound, it doesn’t matter how you roll them. hell in this case you could grab three dice for each would one for the armor save one each for the abilities and roll them all together per wound because the outcome is the same… any die that passes it’s roll for that wound the wound is saved or ignored. The statistics don’t change.

            The most ideal time saving device for more than 2 or 3 wounds however would be to roll them from easiest to make to hardest thereby theoretically shrinking your dice pool with successes from each previous round.

          • Marcus Christian

            Wrong. That would have you rolling too many dice. Pick one ability and roll. Successful rolls would then not trigger the other ability. Rolling all dice for both would be cheating.

          • euansmith

            What was the value of D?

          • AircoolUK

            You should have been looking for ‘X’, not ‘D’ , that’s why.

          • Brian Hayne

            Any time you multiply or divide OR add or subtract, the order in which you do them does not matter. You just can’t mix adding/subtracting with multiplying/dividing (or with exponents or square roots). This is precisely the same reason why when calculating tax and PERCENTAGE discount, the order you resolve them does not matter. If however the discount is a fixed about like $5, it it typically resolved before tax or as the discount spells out. Since die roll results in the example are percentages in both cases, you can multiply them in either order and you’ll get the same result.

          • barry sadler

            However if 6 wounds are caused and you go with stagnant probability. Roll the 6+ first as you’ll save one wound 1/6 in 6. The probability of saving the next two wounds is 1/5 in 5 and 1/6 in 5. Other way is save 2 wounds and have 1/6 in 4. That third save is either a 1/6 chance out of 5 wounds or 4

          • Shenordak

            Ehhm, while this is certainly almost completely correct, the order in which you divide or subtract something does matter. 2*3 is equal to 3*2, 3+2 is equal to 2+3 but 2/3 is not equal to 3/2, and 3-2 is not equal to 2-3.

          • Horus84cmd

            Yep. Spot on. There is a reason you learn about modes of operation in school maths lesson – the easy to learn acronym: B.O.D.M.A.S*

            B = Brackets
            O = Orders
            D = Division
            M = Multiplication
            A = Adding
            S = Subtraction

            Start doing these operations in the wrong order and you’re sum will never be correct.

            *I believe now it is taught as B.I.D.M.A.S, where ‘I’ become ‘indices’.

          • Shenordak

            Yeah, to be fair he meant that x*y/z is equal to x/z*y and that x+y-z is equal x-z+y, which is 100% correct. Just ro be clear ☺️

          • Matthew Dix-Williams

            Statistically it does not make a difference, but you should roll the least likely to succeed first, going towards the most likely to succeed. That way if you decide, after failing both, to burn a command point for a reroll you can reroll the most likely to succeed result.

  • Rob brown

    Wait… your evidence that you get to benefit from both these rules (despite them doing almost exactly the same thing) is that other rules are clear and you’ve then quoted some rules that don’t apply. Hmm. I’m not convinced.

    How about you chose one of the other warlord abilities instead? Then it isn’t an issue. Until you get a FAQ. Choosing the Tenancious survivor as a nurgle player is just asking for arguments.

    • OldHat

      He provided pretty good evidence honestly. They have two potential rules that give them an extra chance. Neither seems to preclude the other in the rules and rules for sequence resolution exist. Seems pretty straight forward.

    • Desmond Burke

      Another precedent is the way it works in AoS, where you can have multiple abilities that do the same thing but stack. So you’d make your Disgustingly Resilient roll, then the Tenacious roll. Then have an onion roll, cause hell you Nurgle and your breath already stink.

    • Belechem

      There is no need for an FAQ on this case. The rule is clear as posted above: If some rules do the same thing you can use both in the sequence you like. Sure, some like to argue about things that need no discussion….. You really want to keep someone away from a legal bonus to choose because you dont like it ? Interesting.

  • Bakvrad

    Sequencing doesn’t say they stack. It says, that you can use your ability before your opponent if it’s your turn.
    Still there is no rule not allowing stacking…

    • OldHat

      This is sequencing. You have two rules that trigger at the same time. You pick the order they resolve as neither one is a re-roll or overrides the other.

      • Parthis

        The issue at hand though is whether they both trigger.

        • Sergio Celi

          Some are saying that in AoSigmarines’ rules 2 different skills while making the same effect they can be triggered both in a sequence.

  • Commissar Molotov

    I think we’re ascribing a level of rules-writing competence to Gee Dubya that they really don’t deserve.

  • Brian Hayne

    These ads are absolutely brutal to the speed of this page…at least once you get down to the comments. Jesus

    • Xodis

      Been like that for awhile….its sad.

    • Commissar Molotov

      And the browser hi-jacker ads…no, I don’t want a damned Amazon gift card. Let me leave your stupid site!

      • KombatWombat

        Yeah BoLS has completely lost my traffic for my mobile – the site straight up does not function on iPhones, I can only come here on my tablet when I’m at home and even that’s started to get sketchy. Hopefully they eventually realise that the current ads are costing them clicks and hence revenue…

    • AX_472

      yeah my tablet can’t deal with the page at all anymore 🙁

  • Xodis

    Just make it easy and give them a 4+ to DR and call it a day……dont mind my Nurgle army, my opinion is completely non-biased.

  • Xodis

    Realistically, this is probably something that will just go away once we have real codices and Warlord Trait tables for specific armies.

  • Chadas

    So do we get to stack our inv save with regular save as they happen at the same time…. awesome, my Deathwing Knights get a -2+ save!!!


    • Matthew Dix-Williams

      No, because the invulnerable save specifically states it is taken instead of a normal armour save, whereas these abilities are independent of one-another.

    • While I think you have a valid point of “stacking the heck out of it is not forming a good game”, the issue here imo is that by the core rules, both of these special rules indeed are applying to the models. That doesn’t help speeding up the game though.

  • AircoolUK

    Keep these coming as there’s a lot of nuance to this game that’s easy to miss because your head is stuck in a previous edition or you’ve just skimmed the rules.

    I’ve already encountered the ‘you get -1 to hit when shooting flyers’, or ‘my model get’s a jink save, except it doesn’t because it only get’s it when you Advance’.

    One that caught a lot of people out in AoS was the ‘shoot as if the shooting phase’ for abilities that only worked in the shooting phase. Did you get to use the ability? Yes you do 🙂

  • AX_472

    tau are a better example: stim injectors work on lost wounds (damage roll), ethereals elemental invocation works on “unsaved wounds” (after save, before damage roll) and drones Savior protocols work at the wound allocation step (before saves).

  • kryczek

    No sorry. Pick one the 5+ or 6+. You don’t get 2 after save saves.

    • Ben_S

      On what basis do you say this?

    • 40ker

      They aren’t saving throws, so you’re already interpreting rules incorrectly.

  • turgon

    I have to say I was on board with the whole ‘do one, then the other logic’ until they brought Fortune into it. I kinda feel that since that specifically states that similar abilities do not apply the overall intent is that no similar abilities “stack/overlap.”

    • The issue here is “similar”. Clear definition missing.

  • Ryan Hall

    What is confusing to me is how you have defined stacking/overlapping. No offense intended.

    The Fortune/Molten Body example is incorrect because Fortune is nulled by its own definition, meaning that it and Molten Body will never overlap.

    Disgustingly Resilient/Tenacious Survivor do not stack because they have no modifiers, but they do overlap. Even if DR/TS were defined the same, you would still roll for both.

    Tenacious Survivor would work with Molten Body exactly the same way it works with Disgustingly Resilient (with the only difference being the use of Molten Body for mortal wounds). The only time overlapping abilities of this nature would have to be chosen is if they were both defined as re-rolls, as you cannot re-roll a dice more than once.

  • Ryan Hall

    What really upsets me in this instance is the definition of how damage is inflicted. The rules state that any excess damage done by an attack that would kill a model are lost, meaning the most I could inflict is the total # of wounds remaining. No overhitting, every ability that allows for wound saves has the potential to save the model.

    • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

      I always assumed that when you rolled a “feel no pain” ability, for mundane, non-mortal wound attacks that do multiple Damage, you rolled for the amount of damage that the attack dealt, rather than just what would be enough to drop the model. Doing it the other way makes units with those kinds of abilities too resilient, as you end up with single wound models tanking attacks meant to one-shot tanks or cripple Titans.

    • turgon

      Roll wound… check ability… take or ignore wound. Repeat until all damage resolved.

  • David Robert Gartland

    For DG the abilities work like the old BS 6+ chart (example: roll a 5+ then if failed a 6), and the Eldar just lose the psychic power?

  • Fergie0044

    See, this is where I miss USR. The plague marines could have had FNP (5+) with a warlord trait that gives the model FNP (6+) or improves his existing FNP by one. Means one less roll to make each time he takes a wound.

    • Yup. It was obvious such crap was going to happen. And more of it will follow.

  • Horus84cmd

    Sort out your pending comments. I have one pending for over 12hrs. There is nothing rude, or inflammatory in it – I don’t understand why its pending. I’ve stupidly re-posted it three times in an effort to be heard! I need to delete two, so there are not copies!