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40K Op-ed: Bring Back Universal Special Rules

5 Minute Read
Mar 6 2018
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For over a thousand generations, the USRs were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Editions. Before the dark times…

Universal Special Rules (USRs) where a staple of most previous editions of 40K. These where basic special rules shared by a large number of units in the game, rules like Feel No Pain, Deep Strike, Infiltrate and many others. In the old rule books a handful of pages would be dedicated to writing out these rules and what they did. Individual units then would simply have the rule listed on their date sheet. In 8th Edition how GW did away with these opting instead to give every unit unique rules. This was touted as a way to simplify things, yet months into the edition it doesn’t seem to have worked and it has many wishing for the old days of USRs. Let’s take a look at why.

Slimming Down the Rules


During the lead up to 8th’s release it was announced that the game would be moving away from USRs. This was touted as a way to keep the rules smaller and simpler and make the game easier to learn. Rather than having to read through and learn a handful of USRs you would only have to bother with the rules that affected your units, which would be unique and tailored to the unit itself. On the surface it can be said that this was a success. The main rules were kept to 8 pages and didn’t have to waste space on USRs. However…

It’s Just Moving Rules Around

The thing is, all those rules are still there. However instead of being in one handy place, they are put on unit cards. It’s not like most USRs where removed from the game, they simply changed where they were written. While it technically keeps the core rules simpler and short, it doesn’t make the game any less complex, it just moves the complexity from the core rules to the unit rules. In a lot of ways this actually makes the game harder to understand as you must read each enemy unit to make sure you know exactly what it does.

More Complex

The fact is, taking the old USR of Deepstrike and renaming 80 times just makes the game more complicated. Manta Strike, Death From Below, Teleport Strike, Sky Strike, and Aerial Drop are all just new names for Deepstirke, Each of these abilities does the exact same thing. Yet instead of simplifying with a single keyword, we get a whole host of abilities that you have to read to be certain they do the same thing. All this does is add extra complicity to the game. Complexity that is needless in an already complex game.


Players Still Use USRs for Convenience

Whatever names GW gives these abilities, most players seem to still just calling them my their old USR names. Most people I’ve seen still refer to Deepstire, Outflank, Infiltrate and Feel No Pain as if they were rules. Even new players I know who’ve learned from veteran players use these terms. The fact is, for convenience sake the terms are much easier to use. This is especially true in today’s world of soup lists where one players army might well call the same rule 3 or 4 different names. It’s truly much simpler to call them all by one name. It will be interesting to see how long calling things by the old name sticks around, and if 8th’s unique names win out in the end.

We Still Have USRs

For all the they say USRs are dead we actually still have a couple that seem to have stuck around.  Airborne, Hard To Hit, Supersonic and Crash and Burn are rules shared by almost every flyer in the game. These rules are effectively old USRs sharing names and wording across factions. And lo and behold they work great. These rules that share names and effects are easy to learn and allow me to know how all similar units work. They are a good case of showing how USRs simplify the game.

Final Thoughts


Looking back it seems that the move away from USRs didn’t gain us much. At best it allowed the rules to appear simple and shorter. However the game now has even more rules in it than if USRs had been used, they are just spread around more. Needlessly-unique rules end up adding an additional layers of complexity to the game. In addition many players simply ignore the new rules and refer to the old names and groupings for ease. Overall it seems bringing back USRs at some point (say on a handy laminated reference card) would be the best choice for GW.

Let us know if you think USRs should be brought back, or kept how they are, down in the comments! 

Author: Abe Apfel
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