Friday, September 19, 2014

Rules Lawyer: Markerlights vs. Jink

For this edition of Rules Lawyer, I'm going to look at an issue +Yanni brought up last week: which goes first, declaration of Markerlights or Jink? To summarize - markerlights still break the game. Let's get into it.

To begin, let's look at the Shooting Sequence from the Shooting Phase rules:
  1. Nominate Unit to Shoot 
  2. Choose a Target
  3. Select a Weapon
  4. Roll To Hit
  5. Roll To Wound
  6. Allocate Wounds & Remove Casualties
  7. Select Another Weapon
This sets up our order of operations and we need to look at where the Markerlights and Jink fall. To start, let's look at the Jink USR:
When a unit with any models with the Jink special rule is selected as a target for a shooting attack, you may declare that it will Jink. The decision must be made before any To Hit rolls have been made. 

This fairly clearly falls under Shooting Sequence Step 2, Choose a Target. The second sentence of the rule introduces some ambiguity in that it indicates the controlling player can wait until Step 3, Select a Weapon, to declare, since that would still be before any To Hit rolls are made. However, the trigger for the declaration is clearly in Step 2. 

Now, let's look at the wording for Markerlights, specifically when they are declared and used, so skipping to the second paragraph of Target Acquired:
Immediately before a unit from Codex: Tau Empire shoots at a target that has one or more markerlight counters, it can declare it is using one or more of the markerlight abilities listed below...
Note that as markerlight counters are removed from the target before the shooting attack is made, it is impossible for a unit to benefit from its own markerlights. 
The third paragraph of the rule becomes important because it expands on the timing of the markerlights. Part of the issue is that the Markerlight's Target Acquired rule was written before the 7th Edition Shooting Sequence, which would potentially make an allowance for a unit using its own markerlights.

However, with the 7th Edition wording, and the provision that the counters are removed "before the shooting attack," this indicates that counters must be declared before Step 3, Select a Weapon, since the markerlights will affect all weapons fired by the unit on the target.

That said, markerlights do not fit well with the established shooting sequence. The phrase "before the shooting attack" does not define whether this should be done in Step 1, when declaring the firing unit, or Step 2, when selecting a target. Logically, it would have to coincide with Step 2, choosing a target.

Now, to throw a wrench in the works, there are also Networked Markerlights, that behave differently:
When a unit with one or more networked markerlights makes a Shooting attack, the networked markerlights are always fired first. Once the shots from the networked markerlights are resolved, the unit can then fire their other weapons. This means that (unlike other units) they can expend markerlight counters placed from their own networked markerlights in order to benefit their other weapons. 
It seems pretty clear that with Networked Markerlights, they are treated as separate weapons with the markerlights firing first. This means the declaration of markerlights would be done in Step 7, Select Another Weapon.

Unfortunately, I don't have a hard and fast answer this time. For networked markerlights, it's pretty clear that Jink must be declared before the markerlights are fired or used. However, for regular markerlights it is less clear.

How I Would Play It: I would consider the use of markerlights part of the declaring a target - "Unit X is going to use two markerlights to Ignore Cover on Target Y." In this interpretation, Jink could be declared after markerlights were declared, so the Tau player would have to choose to preemptively ignore cover (thus making Jinking pointless) or not, and force the target to Jink.

How It Probably Is: With both Markerlight declaration and Jink logically falling under Step 2, Choose a Target, as with other simultaneous actions, the player whose turn it is chooses the order. In this case, the firing player is most likely the active player, and so, would force a declaration of Jink first, before declaring Markerlights.

The slight flaw in this argument is that the second sentence of the Jink USR gives interpretive leeway to say that the targeted player has until the first fired weapon is declared to choose to Jink, while Markerlights logically (but again, not RAW) should be declared before a weapon is selected, since markerlights affect all weapons.

Part of why I would play it the first way is because there are less "feel bad" moments with that ruling, and it's also more streamlined. The second interpretation opens additional debate, which, as we can see with the whole of this post, has no defined answer within the rules. That said, I don't believe either way is definitively "right" or RAW, but the second is probably more right.

In the end, it will require a discussion, preferably before the game, or with a TO for an event to see how it will be ruled.

What is your take? How would you play it?

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