Tony here again, and today I’d like to talk about something that is also near and dear to my Wargaming heart: Rules as Intended. I’m no rules guru, but I am an avid reader, and I like to think that I have a strong grasp of a writer’s intention or the theme of most material. I’ve read most of the fluff and rulebooks of the armies that interest me. That basically excludes Tau, Orks, Daemonhunters/Witch Hunters. It’s not to say that these armies are week, Orks rock, but I’m just not as interested in the fluff. Overall, I think GW puts more emphasis on the idea/playstyle of an army than they place on the “microeconomics” of each army. This leads me to the topic at hand: Rules as Written vs. Rules as Intended.
If you don’t know already, Rules as Written (RAW) is a strict application of the word for word rules. Often this means that every instance of the word “and,” “or,” “but,” and “may,” are scrutinized to a level that would get a former NFL star off for murder (despite mounds of evidence). On that note, didn’t Clinton famously say “It depends on what your definition of “IS” is?” When I encounter a strict RAW player, I immediately think of that televised presidential statement and laugh my bum off (youtube it!).
On the flip side of the argument, and obviously where I lean, are the Rules as Intended (RAI) players. As a RAI player I take in the entire source material as a whole, and consider the authors tone and voice when making any tricky rules decisions. To me, this is the common sense approach. I’m an avid lobbyist of common sense. Endless paperwork, strict regulation, and bureaucratic systems are all hurdles in my eyes. …and I work for the government!
The problem with the RAW side is that when something is written intentionally vague, the RAW player has nothing to grasp on to. The world is purely Black and White and there is no room for additional thoughts or interpretations. For instance, recently the Blood Angels FAQ was updated and says something to the effect of “squads in reserve may not combat squad.” The RAW crowd argues that at no point may any squad that has ever been in reserve use the Combat Squad rule. On the other side of the fence, the RAI folk say that is not the intention of the rule. The intention of that rule is that no squad may break up into combat squads and sit in reserve (thus forcing two different reserve rolls). I would argue that the RAI side won the battle when the UK GT rule FAQ (rule 65) stated specifically that Combat Squads take place during deployment, which takes place after a unit comes out of reserve.
Here’s an example of one of the sillier RAW issues, and I have to pick on the Necrons here! The Tomb Spider + Scarab cover save is right past ridiculous and into ludicrous. In your heart of hearts you know that I am right about this. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the Tomb Spider produces Scarabs that then make a squad with the Tomb Spider. The Scarab is a tiny creature on a small base, while the Tomb Spider is about the size of a Daemon Prince. When the Scarab is placed behind a wall, it confers a cover save to the Tomb Spider. It is RAW 100% and I agree with the rule to that extent, but that doesn’t make it right. I understand the rules, but it doesn’t mean I have to agree with them. Needless to say I can’t wait until the Necrons get a new codex!
I can clearly see both sides of the RAW vs. RAI issue though, and I understand both points of view. I don’t, however, believe that we need GW to constantly police our game and spell out each and every rule for us. At some point our better judgment and common sense has to kick in doesn’t it? On the flip side, I don’t know every rule and I appreciate when someone points out some of the finer points that may not get used often. Perhaps taking either side to the extreme is wrong. A mixture of both points of view may be the mark of a truly well rounded player.