Model "Cards" in an app-based world (or: Software-interpreted rules)

This discussion came up in a local Discord and I wanted to bring it here to hopefully get some answers or dev awareness.

Several rules in the game refer to a model’s “card” however with rules now being in the app exclusively and the app no longer displaying model stats in the form of a print-style card like War Room 1 and 2 there doesn’t actually seem to be anywhere in the rules that clearly defines what a model’s card is.

The reason this came up initially was in a conversation about Spell Slave. A newer player asked if a model with Spell Slave can cast animi of a warbeast in their Leader’s battlegroup. Myself and several other veteran players immediately said no, Animi aren’t on the warlock’s card, they can just be cast by the warlock as if they were on the card.

Then it was pointed out that this logic can also be applied to rack spells.

The rules for Racking Spells say:

In addition to the spells they start with, some warcasters have options for selecting, or racking, additional spells. The number of spells a warcaster can rack is described on their spell card. You can choose to rack any spells available to your warcaster’s Faction. Racking spells takes place at the start of the game with both players revealing their spell selection simultaneously. Once racked, a warcaster’s spells cannot be changed during the game

(A minor note is the reference to racking spells available to the warcaster’s Faction, not Army).

Two things to note is that the rule refers to a models “spell card” and it does not say that the spells are added to the model’s spell card. The rules for Animi also do not say a spell is added to the warlock’s spell card:

A warbeast can be forced to cast its animus, or the warlock whose battlegroup the warbeast is part of can treat the animus as if it were one of its own spells while the warbeast is in its control range.

Spell Slave allows casting of spells from the leader’s “spell card”:

This model must be in its Leader’s control range to make the Spell Slave special action. When it does, it casts one of the spells on its Leader’s card with a COST of 3 or less…

Under the rules Model Profiles we can see this paragraph (emphasis mine):

A model or unit’s stat card provides a quick in-game reference of its profile and special rules. The card’s front lists the model’s name and model type, field allowance, and point cost; its model and weapon stats; and a graphic for tracking damage if the model can suffer more than 1 damage point. The text for special rules appears on the card’s back. Warcasters and warlocks have an addition stat card that explains their spells and feats.

So there’s two interlinked problems/questions.

One is that in the change to Mk4 some of the rules text around model profiles wasn’t updated to reflect the death of stat cards. It seems like most veterans are missing this because we have an intuitive sense of what those rules are referring to, but players who have never played an edition of Warmachine with physical cards have the potential for confusion when terms like “spell card” or “the back of their stat card” start being used. This is mostly a new player experience issue that isn’t likely to be a huge problem for most players to figure out but it is a bit of a speed bump.

The second issue is the question of what rules like Spell Slave mean when it comes to Racked spells. It seems clear (again, to veterans) that the intent is that Racked spells are added to the Leader’s spell card, however since it never actually says that in the rules there is an argument that could be made for them being treated similarly to Animi and thus not castable by Spell Slave. If you go strictly by the rules explicitly written down it seems that there are equally fair arguments to be made the Spell Slave can’t cast Racked Spells or Animi because the rules do not say those spells are part of the Leader’s spell card OR that Spell Slave can cast animi because while Animi don’t say their added to the Spell Card neither do Racked spells and Spell Slave is allowed to cast those.

Now, problem 2 is partially solved by the software; since Racked spells appear in the same place in a Leader’s stat profile as static spells and animi do not it is a pretty easy jump to say “well obviously this is the spell card, they are on the spell card.” But since this isn’t spelled out in the rules it leaves things somewhat open to interpretation and it makes the intent of the rules vulnerable to software bugs and changes.

If a bug were to break Racks for example and a Racked spell stopped appearing on the Leader’s spell list is it no longer part of the Spell Card and thus cannot be cast by Spell Slave? If a future QoL update were to add a section to a Warlock’s stat profile that shows the animi of warbeasts in their battlegroup do those now qualify for Spell Slave? What if that QoL update added the animi to the Spells section of the profile rather than making a new section?

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Rack spells are actually added to the card once you start the game so that should clear up that issue.

Obviously no front and back though, but thats a pretty easy cleanup.

Thats the point I make in the last two paragraphs. The rules do not say that, but the app functions that way (if you interpret “spell card” to mean the list of spells in the model stat profile) but that means that if any bug in the software causes rack spells to not appear or some new feature changes how spells are displayed it has the potential to break that interaction.

The risk of opening up the way we understand how the rules work to mean “what does the software let us do” creates a bunch of cascading problems. For example, Total War lists are currently semi-broken in the app and don’t consistently account for the 1-3 free huge bases, does that mean that you can’t play Total War with those free huge bases? Which takes priority, things the app does and the way it displays data or the rules as written?

If there’s a bug that lets me attach Invictus to Vyros2 in the app and I go to an event before the bug is fixed is that allowed because the app shows it as valid even though the rules text says it’s not?

I’m a web developer, I know how weird code can be sometimes. My concern is that if the precedent becomes that the software overrides the written rules then the game becomes unstable when bugs inevitably happen, because software is weird and bugs happen.

I think it’s important to make sure the actual written rules take priority and are just as explicate as they had to be before the software was able to cover over some problems. Because otherwise the players need to keep track of which things the app does are actually allowed and which things are bugs and overridden by the rules. I think it’s important to try to avoid these sorts of conversations, especially in groups with only newer players.

This issue is hardly the end of the world, but it is inconsistent and easily fixable. Adding the line “selected spells are added to the model’s spell card” to the Racking Spells section of the rules would solve this specific problem and maintain the standard that the written rules are the source of truth for the game.

My larger point is more about the precedent set by having the rules as written be subject to the functionality of the software.

edit: A member of the Discord just pointed out another good example of this. Right now if you make a Soldiers of Fortune list you can attach Sylys to Ashlynn1 by using the paperclip button on Ashlynn’s entry in the list. There is no rule written on Sylys’ card saying he can’t attach to her; the only way to know that it’s not allowed is if you are familiar enough with the rules to recognize that his stat profile doesn’t say “Soldiers of Fortune” on it.

If a player brings a list to an event with Ashlynn and Sylys, they would be told “No you can’t do that because the rulebook says you can only take models that have the same Army tags”. However, the app let the do it. The same way the app puts Rack spells on a model’s spell card even though the rules do not say that is what happens.

If we apply the same logic to both situations than either Sylys can be attached to Ashlynn and Rack Spell count as being on the model’s card because the app allows both despite what the written rules say OR Sylys can’t be attached to Ashlynn and Rack Spells do not count as being on the model’s card because the rules don’t say they can despite the app allowing it.

Instead as things currently stand the players have to keep track of and question which instances of the rules and app disagreeing mean the app is providing legitimate functionality on top of the rules and which mean the app is bugged and you need to follow the rules as written.

edit 2: To clarify, I’m not trying to accuse the team of being sloppy or anything like that. Updating a game like this to a new edition is a ton of work and Mk4 made lots of really fundamental changes. It’s easy for stuff to get missed, especially when the majority of folks looking at it are familiar with the game and have an intuitive sense of how things are supposed to work. That’s why so many tabletop games have weird rules contradictions that have to be handled by FAQs and erratas. Making games is hard.

My point is just to highlight this pain point and explain why I see it as having longer ramifications than it might first appear.

Well you got us talking about it. Not sure I would call it a priority at the moment but Dev team will think on this more before we have any set course to take on the matter.

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