Ruleshammer 40k: Malefic Weapons

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Welcome, Dear Reader, to a special edition of Ruleshammer. Rob “Vre’kais” Chilton is out this week so you instead get me, Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones, AKA Chaos Rob. This week I’ll be answering questions about the upcoming Codex: Chaos Daemons, which releases tomorrow! While this book has much less crazy stuff than the 8th edition book there are still some wild interactions in here that need coverage and probably FAQs. So let’s dive right in.

Malefic Weapons

I mean we could just leave it there, but specifically there are a bunch of questions around Malefic Weapons. What do they ignore from a modifiers standpoint? Do they ignore Disgustingly Resilient? What about Armour of Contempt? Well let’s go ahead and take a closer look at the rules for Malefic weapons:

Many Chaos Daemons weapons are Malefic weapons. Such a weapon will have an ability that reads ‘Malefic’ and then a value, such as a 2 or 4. Each time the bearer fights, it makes a number of additional attacks with that weapon equal to that value, and no more than that number of attacks can be made with that weapon while resolving that fight. If a model is equipped with more than one Malefic weapon, it can make additional attacks with each one it is equipped with.

Unless otherwise specified, malefic weapons are never affected by effects or abilities that allow models to make additional attacks, or abilities that would add to, subtract from, or improve their characteristics in any way.

Alright, there’s a lot going on here and a lot to digest, and although we said in our Daemons review that this would prevent abilities like Disgustingly Resilient from reducing damage on Malefic Weapon attacks, that may not actually be the case. On the other hand, as we’ll see, if that *is* the case, then this rule is essentially meaningless in the context of Warhammer 40,000 9th edition. Grab a snack, children, because we’re going on an adventure.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Things You Definitely Can Modify with Malefic Weapons

Let’s start with the short list of things you can definitely, absolutely modify when you’re making attacks with Malefic weapons. This will be important for later.

Strength: User Weapons

Some Malefic weapons in Codex: Chaos Daemons have Strength: User, most notably the Bladed Horn on the Skullmaster and Bloodcrushers and the Attendants’ Hellblades on the Skull Cannon. If the user’s Strength characteristic was modified, then that would affect the strength characteristic of the attacks they make with their malefic weapons. This may also matter for rules like Ramshackle, though we’ll come back to that later because that falls into the hellzone of attacks vs. weapons.

Modifying Rolls

A number of rules in Codex: Daemons modify the wound rolls on malefic weapons, cleverly dodging the restrictions on modifying the weapon characteristics by instead changing the result of the roll. One example of this is the Warp Jaws Stratagem:

Use this Stratagem in the Fight phase, when a SCREAMERS, FATESKIMMER, or BURNING CHARIOT unit from your army is selected to fight. Until the end of the Fight phase, each time an attack is made with a lamprey bite or Screamer bits by a model in that unit, add 1 to that attack’s wound roll.

If we look at the Burning Chariot, we can see that Screamer bites are a S6 AP-3 2-damage attack with the Malefic 6 ability. Clearly, the intent – called out by name – is to allow rolls for these attacks to be modified, and there’s nothing in the rules for Malefic that says otherwise.

Modifying a Model’s Characteristics

Likewise, abilities that modify a model’s Weapon Skill characteristic or give them a modifier to hit will still affect attacks made with Malefic Weapons. So if you’re trying to swing at Harlequin Troupes, you’re still going to be doing so with the -1 to hit penalty. Likewise, the Thousand Sons’ Paradoxical Chatterfowl relic will reduce the WS and BS for nearby enemy models, and as such modify their characteristics when making attacks with Malefic weapons, since they’re modifying the model’s profile and not the weapon’s.

Saving Throw Modifiers

Once you’ve made attacks with Malefic weapons, abilities that modify the target’s saving throw can still be used. So abilities like Heavy Cover or All is Dust which give +1 to saving throws in specific circumstances, will still apply against attacks made with Malefic Weapons.

Credit: Liebot –

Things You Definitely Can’t Modify with Malefic Weapons

Now let’s talk about things that you definitely can’t do with Malefic weapons. Which isn’t to say there’s even a way to do some of these – for my part, I’ve been up and down the Daemons Codex and I don’t actually think they’ve made it possible to create a situation in the book where one of these might come up.

Making Extra Attacks

This is the most straightforward part of the rule. You can’t make extra attacks with Malefic weapons. So if you had an ability that let you generate additional attacks with your weapons, or an ability like the Drukhari Competitive Edge that let you make additional attacks for each missed attack, those couldn’t be made with the model’s Malefic weapons. Note however that this doesn’t say anything about extra hits, so abilities like the psychic power Hysterical Frenzy which allows units to score additional hits when rolling unmodified 6s to hit definitely still generate extra hits for attacks made with Malefic weapons.

The Number of Attacks Made

You also can’t reduce the number of Attacks made with Malefic weapons. If, for some reason, a unit had an ability like the Death Guard Belching Fumes Stratagem for Myphitic Blight-Haulers (which only affects ranged attacks and so does not apply here), it would be unable to reduce the number of attacks made by a unit’s Malefic weapons. As far as I can tell however, no such rules exist in Warhammer 40k at the time of this publication.

Other abilities might also affect this, however – The Thousand Sons’ Conniving Plate for example doesn’t limit how many attacks you can make, only how many you can allocate to the relic’s bearer. Your Malefic weapon can still make those attacks, they just won’t go anywhere.

And That’s It

No, seriously – that’s it. As far as I can tell there are almost no rules in the game that actually modify weapon characteristics. Instead, there are dozens of rules, if not hundreds, that modify the characteristics of attacks.

Credit: Liebot –

Attacks vs. Weapons

OK here’s where things get weird. There’s a distinction in the rules between weapons and attacks.

Let’s start by looking at the Making Attacks page of the rulebook, page 109 in the War Zone Nephilim rulebook. Specifically, these three passages:

Attacks are made using ranged or melee weapons. Attacks can be made one at a time, or in some cases, you can roll for multiple attacks together. The following sequence is used to make attacks one at a time:

Each time an attack scores a hit against a target unit, make a wound roll for that attack by rolling one D6 to see if that attack successfully wounds the target. The result is determined by comparing the attacking weapon’s Strength (S) characteristic with the target’s Toughness (T) characteristic, as shown in the following table: <TABLE>

The player commanding the target unit makes one saving throw by rolling one D6 and modifying the roll by the Armour Penetration (AP) characteristic of the weapon the attack was made with.

The damage inflicted is equal to the Damage (D) characteristic of the weapon making the attack.

OK, so why go through all this? Well in part to set the stage. In the rules for making attacks, we can see a number of references in the process to checking the characteristics of the weapon. This suggests that when we make an attack, we are continually checking the characteristics of the weapon that made it, and that the attack itself does not have any characteristics. In the case of abilities like Armour of Contempt this might suggest Malefic Weapons’ characteristics can’t be modified.


There’s a Rules Terms Glossary at the back of the rulebook that adds some clarification on this – see page 133 of the Nephilim rulebook:

Attack’s Characteristics: When resolving an attack made with a weapon, that attack is considered to have the same characteristics and abilities as that weapon. If any changes are made to the characteristics or abilities of an attack, those changes do not apply to the weapon it is made with, nor do they apply to any other attacks made with that weapon.

This on the other hand seems to (somewhat) definitively suggest that attacks made with Malefic weapons can be modified just fine, and abilities that explicitly reference modifying attacks, such as Disgustingly Resilient (-1 damage) or Armour of Contempt (worsen the AP by 1) absolutely do apply, as well as buffs like the Chaos Daemons’ own Plague of Rust Warp Storm Effect (improve the AP by 1 against VEHICLE targets).

So why isn’t that the end of it?

Well, the short answer, dear reader, is that if Attacks are separate from Weapons and you can modify the attacks for Malefic weapons, then the rule doesn’t actually seem to do anything. There aren’t any rules in Codex: Chaos Daemons that give models extra attacks, and the modifiers that have been included in the book all seem to either generate extra hits or modify the rolls made during the attack sequence. Likewise I can’t find any rules in the Warhammer 40k library that actually modify the number of melee attacks a unit makes with their weapons, only abilities that reduce the Attacks characteristic of enemy models (such as the Shadowkeepers subfaction trait).

What we’re left with is a rule whose only purpose seems to be not letting you make all of the model’s attacks with a particular Malefic weapon, something which had already been templated many times before and doesn’t show up all that often in the book anyways. There’s also a question of intent here – Daemonic Saves are clearly meant to be a “what this says is what you get” type rule as it relates to saves, and it’s very plausible that the intent for Malefic Weapons is that you just can’t modify them, and what’s on the page is what you get when those attacks are made.

The Goonhammer Ruling

At this point, I think the Glossary entry on page 133 takes precedence here and modifiers on the attack just don’t interact with the rules for Malefic weapons. As such, rules that modify the characteristics of an attack, such as Armour of Contempt or Disgustingly Resilient, still modify attacks made by Malefic weapons. This is the weakest interpretation for the power of Malefic weapons, but ultimately this only affects a handful of units in the Codex, and only a small number of attacks on those units.

And yes, we’ll be going back to the review to edit the sections where we say Malefic weapons bypass Disgustingly Resilient. I think we got it wrong in our initial reading, and sometimes that happens.

Conclusion: This Needs to Be Addressed in the FAQ

That said, we Absolutely think there should be something in the upcoming Codex: Daemons FAQ to address this. It’s not at all clear and this is exactly the kind of thing a GW FAQ should handle – answering frequently-asked questions about the rules in the book, especially when playing them correctly requires referencing the glossary in the rulebook and not the pages on making attacks.

Anyways, next week Rules Rob will be back to talk about the other nonsense in Codex: Chaos Daemons.

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