BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

40K: The Rule Of Three Needs To Go

5 Minute Read
Sep 11 2018

The Rule of Three was an honest attempt to help balance the game, it has however failed.

When GW released the BIG FAQ 1 in April they included a change to matched play rules known colloquially as the “Rule of Three”. This rule was an attempt to help balance the game and counter spam lists by only allowing players to take 3 copies of the same unit. While this rule has had some positive effects, they are ultimately outweighed by its negative impact. In addition it has ultimately failed in its main goals, leading to even more unbalance. With the BIG FAQ 2 right around the corner lets talk about why this rule needs to go.

The Goal

In the big FAQ 1 GW states that the rules do “not currently do enough to encourage players to take diverse armies”. Thus the clear goal of the Rule of Three is to prevent spam lists. In addition its fairly obvious from the meta at the time the rule was introduced that their were a few particular lists GW was worried about. While it has had some success in countering these lists, it’s not clear it has been successful overall.


At the time the Big FAQ 1 came out a couple lists were heavily abusing spam. In particular, Flyrant lists, taking 6-7 of them, lists running 5-9 Shield-Captains on Jetbikes, and lists spamming small Dark Reaper squads. Since the introduction of the Rule of 3 theses lists have vanished. In these cases the Rule of 3 was certainly a success. It could be argued that points increase on Dark Reapers, as well as the introduction of the cheap Ravager, would have killed that spam alone. We also can’t discount the idea that some other spam lists might have risen to favor without this rule in place. However the Rule of 3 has ultimately had many failures.

Failure: Loopholes

One of the failures of the Rule of 3 is the many loopholes it has. In particular since the restriction is on datasheets, armies that have several similar units that are slightly different can skirt the rule. You can see this very clearly in Chaos Demon Princes, which have a number of nearly identical datasheets. In addition since vehicle squadrons count as one unit you can still spam AM tanks, even more so when you add in Forgeworld Variants. Lastly since Dedicated Transports aren’t affected some problem units such as Venoms, get to break the rule.

Failure: Many Units That Weren’t Broken or Abused Are Hurt


The fact is that most units aren’t broken or abused. I don’t think anyone this Edition has complained because their opponent took  4 Predators, or four squads of Vespids. Yet all of these units are now restricted. A lot of cool ideas and freedom to build list was taken away. This was particularity felt by the books that can’t take allies to help get around the limit. The Rule of 3 also pushes players to run soup lists.

Failure: Too Broad A Rule

At the end of the day the rule is simply too broad. While it has stopped a few particular builds, it widely curbed player’s freedom to build lists. It’s the classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In addition due, to its broad nature and loopholes it has also not been particularity efficient at achieving its main goal, and spam still crops up all the time. Its broad nature has also meant that it has been unequal in its effect on different armies. Some like Custodes and Tyranids being badly hurt, while others, like Chaos haven’t been effected much at all.

It Tried, but…

Looking at the lists from a lot of major tournaments I don’t see that the Rule of Three has been successful. While it killed a few specific lists, I don’t feel like the game is any more balanced. Nor do I feel like spam lists have been tamed or players are taking a greater variety of units or armies. Venom spam, Knight spam, and even Daemon Prince spam are all still alive. Ynnari lists where winning major events before the Rule of Three and very similar lists are still winning events.

In fact, by killing a few top lists and limiting options it feels like the rule has actually led to less variety. The rule has prevented players from experimenting with some extreme list ideas, and also pushed players towards using spam. Rather than three different lists, each focusing on one powerful units, you are now more likely to see three identical lists combining those three units. I personally don’t think that’s an improvement, and so I say its time to ditch this rule.


Let us know if you like the Rule of Three, or also think it should go, down in the comments! 

  • 40K Needs Boarding Actions And Other Close In Fights