40K Deep Thought: Fixing Character Spam

I think there’s a very simple solution to the character spamming that is rearing its head. What do you think?

We’ve all seen what is possible in 8th edition.  It’s a whole new world out there and while superfriends is long gone, a new version of DeathStars is beginning to rise in the competitive scene.  But their power hinges on one little sentence – the Character Rules:

The key sentence character spamming armies abuse is this one:

“A Character can only be chosen as a target in the Shooting phase if they are the closest visible enemy unit to the model that is shooting.”

And this is where the nastiness of character spamming comes in.  A rule that was initially designed to prevent characters to be sniped out from within their armies has been turned on it’s head and is now being used to prevent the opposing player from shooting what he wants, and instead takes target priority out of his hands.

We’ve all seen examples of multiple Imperial Assassins being used to tie the hands of opposing players, and in armies composed 90% of characters – probably not what the Design Studio had in mind.


An ideal solutions should be elegant, simple, and not require modifying things at the codex or unit level.  You want to protect individual characters within an army from unfair attention, while neutralizing the abuse possible when knots of character models gather in a close position.

How about this:

“A Character can only be chosen as a target in the Shooting phase if there is not a closer visible non-Character enemy unit to the model that is shooting.”


A Simple Scenario

Now think about what this does. Imagine the following scenario with these models in a row:

X (Enemy model)

A (Character 1)

B (Character 2)

C (Character 3)

D (Non-character 1)

E (Character 4)


Current Rules

Under the current rules, the enemy model can shoot at A (Character 1), and D (Non-character 1). Characters B,C and E are all illegal targets as they aren’t the closest visible enemy unit.  This is allowing Characters B,C to move up with some level of protection simple because Character A is closer.  This is the crux of what character spam armies are manipulating.

Proposed Rules

Under the proposed rules, the enemy model can shoot at A, B, C (Character 1,2,3), and D (Non-character 1). Character E is an illegal target as D is closer to the enemy model.  I feel that this rule change achieves the goal of preventing characters within their armies from being sniped, while neutering Character spam.


~Think this gets the job done?  Design Studio – are you reading this? Maybe – please…


  • Kyle Johnstone

    Perfect fix.

    • Agent of Change

      Can’t argue with it, elegant and simple.

    • OldHat

      Yea. Larry needs to send this to GW. It is a solid fix.

  • sjap98


  • CG

    Perhaps Assassins should be 0-1 choices again, too?

    • ZeeLobby

      If you want to buy 6 Eversor assassins, GW wants you to buy 6 Eversor assassins.

    • Thomson

      Would fix the effect, not the cause. It won’t take three codices until the next whacky character targeting abuse combo would surface.

      • Drew_Da_Destroya

        Dark Eldar can do it now, using Beastmasters and Courts of the Archon characters. Not quite as mean as the Culexes and their “Can only be hit on 6’s” rule, but still pretty possible

    • Ebon Hand

      0-1 for non Officio Assassinorum armies. People who want to do an all assassin army should be able to, but they will be missing out on heavy support.

      • AbesolutZERO

        Shouldn’t be hard for them to get a special rule that ignores the proposed changes if their entire army/detachment is from the officio assasinorium.

    • Jeremy Larson

      That would only fix assassin spam, not the other character spam armies.

  • Thomson

    This would do it.

  • Severius_Tolluck

    Sounds more reasonable and still allows the spirit of the rule.

  • Another fix: prevent people from being able to take a bunch of characters in the first place and limit it to two 😉

    • ZeeLobby

      I would be a fan of this, but alas it would be restrictive to purchases.

      • Griffin

        How would you take more than one detachment then thats not a viable solution at all…..

        • ZeeLobby

          [Adopts Old Man Voice]: Well back in my day, we only needed one detachment. We didn’t need all these darn-fangled detachments to spam fast attack slots, etc. Lists had varied units because you had to, due to the limitation of a CAD. It actually made you use several units from your codex instead of cherry picking and spamming the best from multiple sources.

          • Gorsameth

            Pretty much.
            The FOC was another slice of the big balance pie and served to limit a lot of the spam that now exists.

            But an open FOC means GW can sell more stuff.

          • ZeeLobby

            Yeah, it turns out allowing players to take as much as they want of anything makes balancing even harder. But they seem dedicated to this new approach…

          • zeno666

            It sells more models, so thats what they’ll do. The almighty dollar is the only thing that matters for this company.
            I bet the guy who wrote the rules was a trainee. The layout guy sure was.
            Because the more I play this edition, the worse it gets.

            Did you know that ruins give cover while whole buildings do not? 🙂

      • Indeed. I’m trying to find a way to fix this in narrative / casual games. The whole bring 10 assassins that you can’t shoot at for the lulz thing annoys me.

        • ZeeLobby

          I can only imagine, lol.

        • stinkoman

          bring back the FOC for casual games. Narrative games should be able to take care of themselves with the, um, narrative.

          • That doens’t work at all if you have a powergamer in the mix. The powergamer will push the rules to the limit. You need your games shielded from the powergamer in casual and narrative games.

          • stinkoman

            that shield being matched play. power gamers arent playing narrative/casual games by definition. at least not in my group.

          • Powergamers destroy my narrative campaigns. Its something that I hear is quite common in a lot of areas. Not all of them just stick to matched play. Some want all games to be about matched play and power play and try to encourage it in narrative games as well.

          • KingAceNumber1

            This really just doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s not like it’s hard to find matched play games to practice in tournaments for. If I’m not playing a tournament game or tournament practice, I have zero desire to ruin everyone else’s narrative fun by bringing something over the top and busted. Hell, avoiding tournament-style games gives me a reason to put some of my favorite models on the table!

            Your stories of power gaming in your area ruining the rest of the hobby make me sad for you and your friends. Not all us tournament gamers are WAAC losers =( if you end up near DC at any point, you’re welcome to come play with my group and we’ll try to change your mind about power gamers!

            The other day I put together a 6-hour custom game with my buddies where they had to pick an IC and fight their way to various objectives through constantly-respawning zombies. It was great! A day later, we were practicing our NOVA lists, and that was also great =)

          • As I was a powergaming WAAC player for years, I totally get where they are coming from. I dont’ agree with them but I understand where they are coming from.

            Imagine if you would a world where tournament play was rare and hard to find. You’d want to recruit as many players as you could into tournament play, and you’d want to make sure that players that were playing in a way opposed to tournament play were at least exposed to tournament play so that you could win them over to it. Because the more people you have playing like you do, the deeper your player pool.

            To some, its as simple as “if you aren’t playing competitively you are playing wrong and you aren’t learning how to play properly”. You can find this at least once or twice a day being said in some fashion on a forum or facebook group.

            To others they feel that they are raising others up to the competitive level by forcing casuals and narrative players to face tournament lists, because if they aren’t facing tournament lists, they’ll never get better and provide a proper challenge.

            To a few, they spent $500 or whatever on a WAAC build and its wrong of you to tell them they can’t use that army that they spent money and time assembling and painting on and they want to use it.

            If the game had better rules, my campaigns wouldn’t need the amount of work I have to put into them to keep them from being trampled by GT level lists.

            Bearing in mind that its not my entire community that is like this. Most of the tournament guys won’t play in narratives at all because they realize they won’t have a challenge using their power list in a narrative, and most of the narrative casual guys are basically “whatever”.

            Its a minority that tries to push the powergaming 24/7 thing. Some of them are starting to phase out to just tournaments now which is good. I wish there was a better answer to prevent the divide in the first place.

          • Ronin

            Before a campaign starts, you should make each player write a one page paper about the the narrative of their army and why they’re taking certain units. Also, as a GM, you can screen each list yourself and approve them for play. What Nova does is they look at people’s lists for their narrative events and then assign them against lists of similar power level.

          • Ive done similar. My last campaign i used azyr comp to get me power scores and assigned the power lists to fight each other.

            A couple of the guys ranted about how elitist that was and how i was shoving my version of fun on them and they should get to play who they wanted and the other players shouldnt bring weak lists.

            I went to private invite only campaigns since.

    • Karru

      So your proposal is to kill Guard and Ork armies, gotcha.

      The problem is that if you remove the ability to take multiple characters, it would cause massive problems to armies that rely heavily on them as their core concept. For example, Guard needs their Company Commanders, in your proposal, without special characters Guard armies would never have more than 6 Orders to use per turn. They would also die from Morale as they lack all Commissar support.

      The fix proposed above is a perfect solution. If they wanted to take it even further, they could make it so that the units and characters must share certain keywords. For example, only Astra Militarum units can block Astra Militarum Characters.

      My bigger issue with 8th edition and Characters is the useless “Bodyguard” units different armies have. Why would you ever use Honour Guard with Space Marines? The answer is, you don’t. You would only soak up lucky Sniper Shots. Personally, I would just make it that you can Snap shot Characters that aren’t close enough to a Bodyguard unit and not the closest target. That way you would actually get some use out of them.

      • ZeeLobby

        I mean it’s crazy, but it used to be doable in the older (yet somehow more advanced) versions of the game. You simply make certain things like Commissars unit attachments, etc. I mean they already had the tools in place to fix all of this. Roll back to 5th and a lot of issues are answered, the biggest problem being wound allocation. They broke the game by adding in tons of characters to a single unit, then they prevented it, and now they broke it again, and now they’ll fix it again. Just frustrating when the solution was there from the start…

        • stinkoman

          keepin it fresh for the new guys

          • ZeeLobby

            Haha. It’s true. They haven’t experienced this roller-coaster yet. I guess it’s their turn :D.

        • zeno666

          5th seems almost playable again now.
          Would need a lot of fixing though, a 5th ed remix perhaps.

          • OldHat

            5th seems good until you see GK outshoot Guard, unkillable Rhinos, and just the whole ‘Cron Codex. lol

          • zeno666

            Indeed the Codexes/Armybooks will eventually always break the game. Normal GW procedure.
            I ment the 5th rule system in itself 🙂
            I’m not saying it was great, but I think it was better than the current bland soup.

          • Karru

            All you really need to do in order to make 5th great is to fix the wound allocation you could do. The core rules of 5th edition has been so far the best ones in my mind. It was the codex creep that ruined the edition.

          • zeno666

            5th edition was by no means great.
            But if you add the new vehicle statlines and the re-introduction of the Movement-stat, ie the only good things with this edition, 5th could go from Bad to Ok.

      • Considering for years and years and years this was how things were done, I don’t see it killing anything.

        However crap in one hand and wish in the other and see what fills up quicker 😉 the rules are what they are. They aren’t changing regardless and the genius players that run their dozen or so assassins or whatever the build is that people in my area are now starting to copy get to rush forward with their character army and abuse the rules where you can’t shoot at them.

        But I realize this is the GW cycle of life.

        • stinkoman

          “Crap in one hand and wish in the other and see what fills up quicker”

        • Karru

          Yes, but that was how earlier editions worked. In earlier editions, characters either were meant to be a CC fighter or a boost to a unit. Many armies, like Guard, were designed around the use of certain units.

          Let’s look at what Guard had in place for their Orders. First of all, you had Company Command Squad. 2 Orders, just like now. On double 1’s, you’d get extra order. You’d get max 2 of these guys. Then you had your Platoon Command Squads for additional Orders, 1 Order each, but the same bonus Order potential.

          Then the big things, first of all, Infantry Platoons and how Combined Infantry Squads worked. You could combine your Infantry Squads into bigger units, reducing the amount of Orders needed as a whole in the army. Then you had the Orders themselves. Re-roll ALL failed hits was one, the other was that the target had to re-roll successful Cover Saves. These were the ones that boosted the damage of your units.

          These are the 5th edition Orders, if you hadn’t guessed.

          Now then, what about now? How are the orders different? Well, re-roll 1’s galore. Units split to high heavens, no longer combining them to reduce the amount of units to order.

          Commissars were “upgrades” for your units. Priests and such were 0-5 per army, didn’t take up any slot.

          Many support characters were free slots in the past. In 8th, everything, absolutely everything, takes some sort of slot. In order to make that not the case, they would have to reconstruct the entire system again, because 2 character limit won’t work in 8th.

          • Oh absolutely. Orders etc with guard make the game easier. Any type of change in the history of game design that makes one faction harder to use or where they lose their power invokes a negative response.

            But something needs done with the garbage that the powergaming community is coming up with right now.

            A two character limit would work fine in 8th. Its just for some armies they’d lose the keys to their kingdoms and that would incite anger.

            I have never run more than 2 characters in any of my 40k armies ever. And I also play guard.

            Not that this is ever going to happen anyway so its a moot point.

          • Muninwing

            In 3rd, part of my local meta was running the cheapest characters possible… they just weren’t worth it.

            4th wasn’t too different. 5th changed that… as it did with a lot of things.

      • Ebon Hand

        Honor Guard and bodyguard units are great. Have you tried using them yet? You use them to protect your Warlord in close combat.

        • Karru

          Only Bodyguard unit I have used is the Tyrant Guard. Every other time, I don’t usually charge my characters into a combat I know he won’t be able to destroy completely. Since most buffs are now just 6″ bubbles, it is enough to keep them close to get their benefit to the unit that charged.

          There are some rare occasions that I do it, but mostly it is just my units doing the fighting, not the characters.

      • Muninwing

        yet, Guard has been around for over a decade, and Orders are only a comparatively recent installment in that… and the army has done alright…

        i’ll argue that yes, there needs to be some protection for characters. but only some. and it should be about what used to be given to a character that joined a unit in the past.

    • wibbling

      What about those wanting to take 5 greater daemons?

      The rule interpretation is still wrong though.

    • Valeli

      Nah. Two is low, and would impact armies with cheap/weak characters differently from those with high priced elite ones.

      I’d like to see something done though, as lists that just spam characters are silly and the polar opposite of what I want to bother playing against. That said, it’s also the sort of list I’m /very/ unlikely to see outside of a tourney…..

      I think tournies can be fun and have good community building potential though (and I’m not opposed to being competitive …. just want to be competitive with armies that look like armies). So hopefully another fix can be found.

  • Davis Centis

    Doesn’t exactly work. Think of big Characters; Hive Tyrants, Magnus, Greater Daemons. These guys are as big as vehicles, hence why they don’t benefit from the character rules in the same way. However, with this change, you can ignore Magnus the Red to shoot at Ahriman behind him.

    Overall, I’d say this is an acceptable casualty, but it is something to consider first.

    • KingAceNumber1

      Working as intended, imho. If you can draw LOS to Ahriman, you can shoot Ahriman. A small price to pay if I don’t have to watch my army get eaten by 8 Eversors while all I can shoot as is one Culexus that I hit on 6’s

      • wibbling

        Yet if all you’re faced with is an Eversor with Culexis in front of it, just shoot the Eversor. It’s a character and there are no other targets to select that are not characters, so you can shoot at what you like, not just the one in front.

        Is there a rule saying you have to shoot a the nearest enemy?

        • KingAceNumber1

          Right; I think we are saying the same thing. I am all for the change that you are advocating =) I was saying in the original case that Ahriman being able to be targeted behind Magnus is fine and working as intended in that scenario, were the proposed rule change to happen.

        • JayBiga

          Exactly how my gaming group interpreted the rule. I understand how the rule can be read to make the conga line a thing, but if that’s how you want to read the rule, you deserve to be pitied, as you probably have no friends.

    • DoctorBored

      They could add a small stipulation, or change characters that have more than 9 wounds to have a sort of ‘Giant’ keyword that would treat them differently. IMO, I’d rather see them use a ‘Giant’ keyword rather than stipulate how many wounds something has, and then turn Big Bobby G into a ‘Giant’ so he can be focused down.

      • Davis Centis

        Meh, I was just pointing out another, possibly unintended, difference. I don’t think it’s a big enough difference to have additional stipulations – keep it simple. It’s just something to note. I’m not sure if it really makes anything very different.

        • DoctorBored

          The only situation it really changes is if all you have on the table is one of those big characters and another, smaller character behind it. Ahriman behind Magnus or Typhus behind Mortarion. It doesn’t really affect anything to do with vehicles or other big non-character creatures.

  • Randy Randalman

    Pretty simple. GW is already on top of it (FAQ coming soon). Plus assassins specifically may get the added text of “only one per army” like named special characters.

  • Ari Varey

    I get that this is because of that assassin spam. The player himself said it is very weak to horde armies. You know like the one that won the previous tourney, remember?

    Forget character spam, I’m more worried about the insanely short memory span of everyone. Seriously a horde Astra Militarum won the previous main tourney, and would have tabled the assassin list in short order.

    Characters aren’t the mainn problem. The assassin list was designed to cheese the current meta, which is marine heavy and non-horde.

    That being said go ahead and fix the rule rather than changing the meta. It’s super healthy for competitive games.

    • KingAceNumber1

      What would your suggestion be to change the meta without fixing rules?

      • Ari Varey

        Change nothing and let players figure it out. Works for every single other compettive game in the world.

        • Brandon Rutter

          Seriously. I used to play Mtg, I dont think 40k players know what abusive spam is lol. Like you said, looks loke they got a nice little rock paper scissors meta going

          • zeno666

            So very true. The 40k fanboys are living out their lives in a sheltered workshop (!)

          • KingAceNumber1

            I mean, WotC bans stuff, that’s a much harsher way of reeling it back than rules changes in 40k.

  • I_am_Alpharius

    Don’t think designers will take that route. If they follow their attitude to AoS they won’t be using FAQ’s or the upcoming Chapter Approved book to make changes to the core rules (this was talked about on the WH-Tv twitch stream in regards to the Generals Handbook 2.0) ; fundamental changes will be reserved for new editions.

    Personally, I would imagine the fix will be similar the one used for the units with keyword “flyers”. I’d hazard GW may go down the route of stipulating that units with the keyword “characters” can’t hold or contest objectives unless they have ‘x’ amount of starting wounds (I was thinking 6/7+?) or are your Warlord.

  • Chad Underdonk

    Not elegant enough. How about:

    “An enemy Character can only be chosen as a target in the Shooting phase if they are closer to the model that is shooting than all other non-character visible enemy units.”

  • Malisteen

    I like this fix.

  • Gerbanator

    This is not the still not the perfect fix. It needs to say:
    “A Character can only be chosen as a target in the Shooting phase if there is not a closer visible (and eligible) non-Character enemy unit to the model that is shooting.”

    You can’t even shoot a character if there is an enemy unit tied in Hand to Hand combat closer than the character.

    • KingAceNumber1

      That’s not the issue being discussed, though, and imho not that much of a problem. You’re allowed to literally just walk out of combat, thereby making the enemy unit a viable target…

      • Gerbanator

        In the below example, you either have to shoot at D or forego your shooting for the turn. I understand this is not the exact topic being talked about, but it still needs to be rolled in with the character and shooting rule.

        X (Enemy model)

        A (Non-character 1 engaged in HtH)

        B (Character 1)

        C (Character 2)

        D (Non-character 2)

        E (Character 3)

    • mgdavey

      I guess the problem there is suppose you have a unit of guardsmen buffed by a character. You keep the character behind to keep if from being shot off the table. The big unit gets into melee. Now the character is vulnerable to shooting? Doesn’t seem in the spirit of the rules.

      • Gerbanator

        It is not in the spirit of the rules and I agree with you 100%. But as stated now, you cant shoot the character.

  • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

    I’d change it to require that you have to target the largest unit in range, in terms of Wounds/models, with the caveat that, if there are only Character models in range, you can fire at will.

  • Also add in “Legal Target” as well. The fact that units you cant even shoot are preventing you from shooting.

    “There is one culexus in combat in the middle of your army, the rest of your army cant shoot anything if their entire army is characters”

  • wibbling

    A B and C are all viable targets anyway because they are nearer than the non character unit. The only unit that couldn’t be targetted is E because of the non character D.

    Isn’t this obvious? ‘If there is a closer non-character unit’. There isn’t, so you can shoot at A B or C as there is not a ‘closer non character unit’

    • stinkoman

      did you just sum up the proposed change or am i misunderstanding your comment?

  • Jared McWilliams

    There’s a lot of overreacting to the assassin army. It only works versus gunline armies that have high model cost and low rate of for high strength weapons.

    Charging culexus kills them pretty well, they average 1 wound a turn in assault again most units.

    Shooting them with volume fire, with rerolls, or +1 the hit works well.

    Having lots of “deep strike” equivalent units works well to kill off the other models and bypass targeting the culexus.

    It’s a meta build that only works in metas where it faces static gunline armies that fire low rate of fire high strength shots.

    • J Mad

      Or flamers….. Flamers kill them really fast

      • Jared McWilliams

        That’s on point.

  • Calgar

    I think the easiest solution, and one I suspect is coming when assassins get their own codex is , One assassin per detatchment. The real problem with the targeting of characters is that the closest characters in these armies are all Culexus assassins that can only be hit on 6’s.

    Fluff wise this makes more sense because assassins are pretty much a one per mission type of thing, and yes, i have read the stories about the armies of assassins going after a single target, but be realistic. These guys are very valuable, expensive to train, and they are not going to be employed en mass in battles on anything but the rarest of circumstances.

    The problem is not so much characters spam, as it is Assassin spam.

    The other best solution I can come up with if they dont want to limit assassins, is to take the character keyword away from them. Then they can be ignored or killed as needed, because like I said, the main problems of these character spam armies is that the only model anyone can target can only be hit on 6’s.

  • Mr.Gold

    for Characters starting with less than 10 wounds how about:
    can only target the character if closer units have equal to or fewer MODELS then the Character has for his CURRENT WOUNDS value.

    i.e. if the character has 5 wounds remaining then he can be screened by a 5 man unit, but not a 4 man unit (this includs other characters as well).

  • zeno666

    This never came up in the playtest? lol

  • Diego Cage

    awsome, GWS take note please

  • Defenestratus

    What happens if that closest unit is locked in combat?

    • mhtsaropinigitakis

      you still cant shoot the characters.

  • Kevin Glasgow

    Or just make assassins “unique” as an army choice, which I like better

  • Christopher Yates

    Or make it if a character is within idk 12 or maybe 10 inches, hes targetable. The whole point for that was so your characters dont get sniped from long range, so with this change it achieves the same effect but doesn’t explot the rule. I mean it makes since, so melta tau commander spam doesn’t happen, so they cant drop 9 inches from you and kill everything and you’re only allowed to shoot the closest one at a time, forcing you to overkill and waste your shots