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Warhammer The Old World has 75 universal special rules

A new Games Workshop preview says Warhammer The Old World has "around 75" universal special rules for units, twice as many as Warhammer 40k.

Warhammer The Old World Universal Special Rules - Games Workshop artwork showing a Bretonnian Grail Knight riding into battle

New fantasy wargame Warhammer The Old World will feature “around 75” universal special rules (USRs) that players will need to memorize or look up during play, Games Workshop has revealed – more than twice the number in Warhammer 40k 10th edition.

Confirmed in a Warhammer: The Old World (TOW) preview article on GW’s Warhammer Community website on Monday, the news came alongside a trove of gameplay details for the Grail Knights, an elite cavalry unit for a fan favorite Warhammer The Old World faction, Bretonnia.

Like other GW miniature wargames, units in TOW will operate according to army-specific rules and unit-specific rules listed on their profiles, as well as any USRs that apply to them.

Combined with the core game rulebook – which is reportedly coming out “some time in the New Year” – that means you’ll have four different categories of rules that come together to govern how each unit can act in the game.

Warhammer The Old World Universal Special Rules - Games Workshop graphic showing the new TOW universal special rule Armour Bane and the stats for the Lance weapon

According to GW, the USRs actually aim to make this cocktail less complicated overall. “This new system simply collates a lot of special rules that once lived in several places”, the firm explains – “things like Psychology, unit coherence, or Monster rules”.

At the same time, they’re meant to “provide the variety, character, and granularity you need for a realm as violent and varied as the World of Legend”, GW says, adding that elite units like the Grail Knights would “generally have the most USRs”.

USRs can also be attached to pieces of equipment (like weapon and armor choices, Magic Banners, and such) or paid-for unit and model upgrades (like choosing a Knightly Virtue for the Grail Guardian that leads a unit of Grail Knights).

Warhammer The Old World Universal Special Rules - Games Workshop graphic showing the full rules profile for the Bretonnian Grail Knights elite cavalry unit

Using the Grail Knights as an example, GW name-drops several of the new USRs we’ll see on elite datasheets and special wargear upgrades – though we don’t have the exact details of how they each work yet. Here’s what we know:

Universal Special Rule Effect
Armor Bane (X) Rolls of natural 6 to wound improve their armor piercing characteristic by X
Close Order Denotes a unit’s formation of models on the tabletop, per the Old World rules for formations
Flaming Attacks Details unconfirmed
Magical Attacks Details unconfirmed
Monster Slayer Details unconfirmed
Stomp Details unconfirmed – in Fantasy Battle, Stomp was a free extra automatic hit that always came at the end of a fight; we can expect it to be similar in TOW

But even bog standard grunt troops have some USRs you’ll need to learn in order to play; GW confirms that the Bretonnian Squires infantry unit has five USRs:

  • Move Through Cover
  • Open Order
  • Peasantry
  • Skirmishers
  • Vanguard

Warhammer The Old World Universal Special Rules - Games Workshop artwork showing Bretonnian knights in a battlefield

The news underlines the fundamental design differences between TOW and GW’s flagship games Warhammer 40k and Age of Sigmar (at least in their modern forms in recent years).

From 2015 to 2023, both 40k and Age of Sigmar both avoided universal rules and unit abilities, in favor of listing what every model could do on its individual datasheet – but that brought problems of its own, with many fans frustrated because various Warhammer 40k factions ended up with very slightly different versions of the same rule, but under different names.

Warhammer 40k 10th edition, launched in Summer 2023, brought them back; but there are still only 30 universal Warhammer 40k abilities to learn – less than half what TOW promises. To find out how those differences in design play out on the tabletop, we’ll have to wait until TOW comes out proper – which GW says will be early in 2024.

For more on what we can expect from this new fantasy wargame (and when), check out our Warhammer The Old World release date estimates. Alternatively, go for something simpler – here’s a Warhammer-alike tabletop game you can play over Christmas dinner.