Thursday, 24 September 2015

Re-rollable jink saves or armour saves on ravenwing bikes - rules discussion.

Hi folks.

So it's not often I talk about rules on the blog as I tend to stick to talking about what I'm good at (i.e. not gaming). However, my recent stint with Ravenwing and Deathwing (see here and here) threw up a question in 2 of the games that I couldn't find a simple answer to despite scouring the rulebook and internet. The question, which seems unique to Ravenwing due to jink re-rolls, is can you voluntarily choose a 'worse' save, or perhaps lower is a better term, in order to benefit from a re-roll, thus technically increasing your probability of making the save?

Before I get to the meat of the discussion, let's think about bikes in general. Take generic marine bikers. When you are shot by high AP weaponry in the open, you will choose to use your armour save and thus not compromise shooting next turn by having to fire snap shots. Low AP weapons will almost certainly make you want to jink for that 50:50 chance of a save despite snap shooting next turn. Mixed fire will leave the choice up to you depending how many casualties you anticipate and what you were hoping to shoot next turn. Suffice to say, however, that if you choose to jink, you will use the cover saves for the AP3 and below wounds and the armour saves for everything above. Those are the saves giving you the best chance of surviving - your 'best' save. Whitescars are a little different with skilled rider increasing the jink save to 3+, but the net decision making is the same. 

Now lets consider the situation with Ravenwing, who can be subdivided into black knights and bikers. Bikers are very similar to their vanilla counterparts, with the exception of the Ravenwing rule granting a re-roll to jink saves. Correct me if I'm wrong, but a 4+ re-rollable save gives a 75% chance of saving the wound over 66% with a regular armour save. Black knights are somewhat different in that they give skilled rider like with Whitescars, but in conjunction with the Ravenwing rule this makes jinking a very attractive option for them, save for the fact it decreases their plasma talon accuracy and renders their blast grenades useless (which are their greatest assets).

Before I go further with this lets look at some rule definitions. There are 3 directly relevant ones, namely jink, re-rolls and saving throws. Jink is pretty straightforward and the re-rolls section doesn't add much clarification. The saving throws section only really makes one reference of note, in which it refers to the model always being able to use its 'best save' where multiple saves are available. Pretty vague as to what the best save is. I have read arguments claiming that it is the lowest number, as with say a terminator using its 2+ over a 5++, and other arguments stating that the re-roll can't be a consideration for calculating this. Neither the lowest save or greatest probability (considering re-rolls) are therefore definitive answers.

Sadly, there are a few more complicating factors. Darkshrouds hand out the potential for the black knights to gain a 2+ re-rollable jink save. This is obviously  open to abuse in a competitive setting. There is also a factor I hadn't considered and that is choosing to decrease your chances of making a save to purposefully kill your own unit, though I'm struggling to find many non-melee situations (which although you would get a cover save you would still have hit and run) in which that would be an issue. And besides, you can always elect not to jink voluntarily so the rules kind of imply that even if your chances of survival were better with a re-rolled cover save, you have the choice not to.

This leads me to where I wrap up. With no clear rulings and much debate between Alex and I, we decided to house rule that you can opt to voluntarily use jink over armour for several reasons. Firstly, we try not to spam lists in our games and so the potential for abuse is limited. Second, given that you sacrifice your offensive potential for defensive gain it seems relatively balanced. Sure, you saved 8.4% more bikes, but they're all snap shooting next turn. Lastly, when trying to extrapolate the 'real world' scenario, the Ravenwing would all elect to jink and wouldn't be particularly selective about what they dodge and what they don't, hence the cover save would be the most applicable. A better way of looking at it maybe is that there are multiple options available and the owning player should simply be able to choose which they prefers to use.

Its the best of an unclear situation and not even necessarily applicable to tournament play, but until the powers that be chip in with a ruling we are at least happy to know where we stand in our games without needing to debate it every time. Please check out the following for further insight into the dilemma and feel free to discuss further. Cheers.

From the Fang


  1. Well, I think that by the rule book you need to choose the best save in the situation, which is a 3+ Armour save for Ravingwing bikers. They don't have an inbuild cover save. But when you are being shot it and you decide to jink, a cover save is being granted to you. Now it's time to role the dice where you need to pick the best save vs a specific weapon. When your opponent selected your Bikers as the target of his shooting attack and you a) declared to jink vs e.g. his lascannons, then you need to pick the re-rollable cover save. And vs. his boltguns the 3+ armour save. and if you b) declared not to jink you can only use your armour save vs the ap 4+ weapons. The re-rollable part adds suvivability but you can't choose it over the armour save because your chances are higher, that's close to powergaming

    1. Hi Shadowclaw, thanks for the reply. All valid points and ones that are raised time and again during the discussions that I both read and had with Alex. The problem with the rulebook section that refers to 'best' save is the lack of definition surrounding it. Is the best save the lowest value? Is it the one statistically most likely to keep your model alive? Is it the one that you simply deem best for that situation. Indeed, some people have even debated whether the wording is intended to prevent you from choosing worse saves for a unit to 'sacrifice' it for tactical gain. Ironic given that in the case of this debate, you would therefore be compelled to take the re-roll cover save as it gives you the best chance of not dying. The case of whether the re-roll should even be considered when making that decision also came up. It's a pretty unique situation (can't think of any other unit which it applies to in this manner) and so there's no established precedent or comparator to help guide the decision. It's a real mind-bender and I've yet to read a concrete answer for either case, hence why after significant debate we house ruled it as the one the felt it made most sense. A simple FAQ would probably sort it out, so we should have the answer in say, 2 years time.

    2. yeah m8, I get your point and I agree that "best" can hardly be defined with those parameters. haha ... faq .. good one ;)

  2. I think the simplest option would be to allow the player taking the save to choose what is their "best" save will be, as they are likely to choose the best option for their unit to survive. Under the multiple saves rule it says you have the advantage of using the best save possible (I think), if your opponent is forcing you to use one save over the other, would they really be forcing you to use your best save?

  3. If you are looking for an official ruling, ITC ruled the best save means "the statistically best save" so it'll be the re-rollable jink, unless that is defeated, then it would be the armor save.

    1. Not really official and especially so this side of the Atlantic. Any TO decision will be based on an opinion. I really need to give it thought for BW though.