Can an IC leave and Join the Same Unit?

In my recent battle with Kris, we had an interesting rules query, that was a little more in-depth than most of the questions I face.  At first glance, it seemed insignificant (and indeed, it had no bearing on the game), but it was a curious little quirk and I’d like to share that with you.

The question came up in turn three during Kris’ movement phase and is disguised in the battle report as: “Kris shuffled his other librarian around for a clear shot, and started plinking away at my other vehicles…”  What actually happened is that Kris had a librarian attached to the left side of his unit, and wanted to move him to the right side–without moving the unit.  (It’s important to note that the “without moving the unit” clause was simply a statement of convenience, as it really made no difference to him whether the unit moved that turn or not).  There’s a picture below to more cleanly explain what I’m talking about.

The pertinent rule question that seems to apply is:

Can a character join and leave the same unit in a single turn?

Since you can only join (or leave) a squad in the movement phase, it shouldn’t come up very often, but it did in this game.  Since the rules say that if one model in a unit moved, the whole unit counts as moving, this could have had an impact if he had wanted to fire heavy or rapid fire weapons. 

So I delved into the rulebook and had an interesting find.  After reading through the section on Independent Characters (IC), I’d say it is possible to leave and join the same unit during the movement phase, based upon two quotes (pg 48 of the rulebook):

An independent character can leave a unit during the Movement phase by moving out of coherency distance with it.


In order to join a unit, an independent character simply has to move so that he is within the 2” coherency distance of a friendly unit at the end of their Movement phase.

Since you can apparently leave a unit whenever you want (in the movement phase that is–indicated by moving out of coherency), but can only join a unit at the end of the movement (which is automatic), it is possible to leave and join a unit in the same phase, though this is predicated on a couple of pre-requisites.

  1. The character must already have been attached to the unit before movement begins.  This means that the character must have been in the unit since the last movement phase (since he couldn’t have joined at any other point).
  2. The character would have to move farther than unit coherency away from the unit (in most cases, this is 2″) to leave, and then must come back to rejoin the connection.  This is difficult (though not impossible) to achieve.  I can think of two possible ways to do just that:
    • EXAMPLE #1: The first of which is to have the character move 2.1″ – 3.0″ away from all models of the unit, to break the connection, and then turn around and come back to roughly the same spot.  Granted, it doesn’t seem to make much sense.
    • EXAMPLE #2: The other way to do it is to have the unit in a formation of either an L or a U so that the character can leave one side of the unit, and join the opposite.  This is effectively what Kris was trying to do, but since he wasn’t able to get out of coherency, his entire squad would have had to move to make this happen.   

An interesting take on a third option would be for the opposite of the above options to happen.  What if the squad moves away from the character and then comes back into coherency?  Well, I don’t think this is actually possible based upon the fact that the only method for a character to leave a unit is to move away during the movement phase.  If the unit were to move, the character joined to that unit would have to be moved with it.  So, the only way to move him out is if he does it himself.

This all seems incredibly tedious, but it does have considerations in real games.

It means that a character can not choose to remain in place while the unit he is with moves.  It is possible though, for the character to leave the unit while “staying” in the same position, but the character counts as moving by doing so.  To do this, the character has to follow example #1 above:  He moves away from the unit to break coherency, and then moves back to his original spot.  The unit can then move freely away from him, as he’s not automatically joined to the unit until the end of the movement phase.

When would this happen?  Whenever the IC wants to shoot at a different target than the squad he’s joined to, but does not want to move.  This could happen if the IC was choosing to fire a heavy weapon (orbital bombardment from a Space Marine Chapter Master, Master of the Forge with Conversion Beamer, Eldar Autarch, etc.) or even a rapid fire weapon (such as a combi-plasma) at long range.

It also means that any effect that applies on the turn a character joins a squad (if such a rule exists) can be used in subsequent turns by leaving the squad and rejoining it.  Granted, I’ve never heard of such a rule, but then again I don’t normally read through every codex with a fine-toothed comb.  Can anyone think of something like this?

Again, it had no bearing on our game (since it didn’t matter whether his squad moved or not), but it does seem to have a potential effect on other games.   Have any of you come across something like this before? 

Welcome Back Kotter picture owned by ABC.


9 comments on “Can an IC leave and Join the Same Unit?

  1. I think that an IC can leave and rejoin the same unit in a different location is pretty much a given, what with your diagrams and all. And I can think of a few other reasons why you might want to do that (hypothetically): you'd want the IC to take an expected charge from the enemy, leaving the rest of the unit to counter-charge the following turn – if you move far enough away, that negates any chance of your opponent being able to move into range of your now-separate troops; Daemon summoning, maybe – moving an IC with an Icon out of coherency to allow for sufficient space to draw down a whole flock of (Lesser) Daemons without killing of 'em any due to models blocking their “deep strike”; and this last one is iffy because I'm not so familiar with the SM Codex, but you could have an IC separate away from his non-fearless SM unit, and then have them voluntarily fail a Morale check so as to retreat (Combat Tactics or whatever the SM Codex rule is called?) – I'm thinking this might be more workable with Orks if you have an IC with a Boss Pole regroup with an under-strength falling back Ork Mob, since he could have them automatically pass a previously-unpassable Morale check by “shootin' one of da boyz” as an example to stop them in their tracks.I'm wondering, though, if a unit “moved away” from an IC during the movement phase to leave him behind out of coherency, if he would count as moving himself – the rules don't mention that contingency anywhere, at least in my skimming through just now.

  2. I'm going to say that yes, you can. HOWEVER,There are some problems. Since if even one member of a squad moved during the movement phase, the entire squad is considered to have moved, there are some problems.Since it is during the shooting phase (obviously after the movement phase)Rapid fire weapons would still only get their 2 shots off for 12″ range,Heavy weapons would still be unable to fire, etc. Sucks, but since you determine if the squad had moved after the movement phase, and since the IC had moved and is part of the squad After the movement phase, the squad is considered to have moved.Also, Tinweasel, the Bosspole does not automatically let them rally, and well, since they're already running and IF they are under 50% (which is likely since they are fearless down to 10 men) well, the only thing that would be able to happen is that the IC would run away too.UNLESSthere are 10 in the squad and running below half and the IC makes 11 then they are fearless and will rally.-Stephen

  3. Bad example with the Ork Warboss. “An independent character may not join or leave a unit while either he or the unit is locked in combat or falling back.” So you can't join the unit to cause get them to regroup. The other ones are good examples though.if a unit “moved away” from an IC during the movement phase to leave him behind out of coherency, if he would count as moving himselfYes. An IC can leave a unit but the unit cannot leave the IC. If the two are joined at the start of the turn, there is no way to unjoin them without causing the IC to count as having moved. It usually doesn't matter, but can be a big deal for IC's packing Heavy or Rapid Fire weapons.

  4. “If an independent character moves and joins or leaves a unit that did not move, the character counts as having moved in the ensuing Shooting phase, but the unit does not.”So by leaving the unit and rejoining, it is the IC that moved and not the unit. So as long as no member of the squad also moves, then they (but not the IC) would not count as having moved during the Shooting phase.

  5. Yeah, that's really the point I was trying to make. The unit can't leavethe character. Since the character is part of the unit, any attempt toleave him behind would only bring him along with him. In essence, it's akinto trying to move away from your shadow: no matter how hard you try, theyseem to come with you.Well, since your shadow can't move you, that's where the analogy ends. Iguess it's more appropriate to compare it to a gaggle of supermodelsaccompanied by a nerd. Where the women go, the nerd is compelled to follow,though he may leave of his own accord should he happen to pass by a local GWstore…

  6. think about this cheese. You have a unit 14 inches away from an enemy infantry squad with an IC with wings/ jump pack. He moves and leaves the unit the IC first using wings 8 in. Then he moves the infantry squad Terminators 6 inches and is 2 inches away from the IC and so they are joined. He now is able to charge your unit and you consolidated reaction gets the enemy unit in combat too. I don't think the rule designers intended this but it's possible with the trick you're talking about.

  7. Nice example. It seems like a perfectly legal method of movement accordingto the rules. Of course, the IC could actually move up to his full 12″(assuming he wasn't farther than 8″ away from the squad when doing so).This could be because he was at the back of the squad to start with.Effectively, it means that any normal infantry unit with an IC (with a jumppack) effectively extends it's charge range by 2″. Interesting…

  8. I would play it that an IC who remains stationary while his unit moves away could still fire a heavy weapon. I think the intention of the rules is pretty clear: ICs have a lot of flexibility and can join units, but to make things clear for everyone, they _must_ join a unit if they end the movement phase close to one (or more). If a unit moves and the character stays where he is, nothing that looks stupid has happened. So as he hasn't moved, I'd let him fire.I would have no problem with an IC leaving and then rejoining a unit that moved. But I wouldn't let an IC leave a stationary unit (allowing it to fire) and then rejoining it in a different position. This seems to be to be contrary to the spirit of the rules. (Just because a heavy weapon guy stands still, why should all his squadmates? The answer is game balance, and to force players to make a choice between movement and shooting. I think that choice should remain, even if you're using and IC.)

  9. My opinion is that while by the letter of the rules this may be correct, I would let an IC remain stationary if his unit moved away from him. It just seems natural and reasonable.

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