Ruleshammer: Codex Death Guard

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Death Guard have gotten a whole codex of new and interesting rules and this week on Ruleshammer I’m going to go through a few of the details and interactions that might come up. Most of them have answers too! 

Contagion Rules

How do they work?

If every unit from your army has the DEATH GUARD keyword (excluding UNALIGNED units), this unit gains the following ability:

Nurgle’s Gift (Contagion): Whilst an enemy unit is within Contagion Range of this unit (see below), subtract 1 from the Toughness Characteristic of models in that enemy unit.

There’s been a lot of talk and previous about the Contagion range mechanic, which increments during the game. However there are a few key things to point about these rules. One common mistake players may make with this rule is completely forgetting about it when shooting with a longer range weapon at a unit near a friendly unit with a contagion ability – Contagion rules aren’t just active when a model with that ability attacks; just being near them reduces the enemy’s effective toughness against all attacks you might throw their way. 

On that note, Nurgle’s gift isn’t the only contagion – there are others that you can gain access to and your whole army does not have to have the DEATH GUARD keyword to get them. Each Plague Company has a Warlord Trait that confers a different contagion ability. It is just the warlord (or the model with the trait) that has this though, not the entire army. Remember that being Battleforged means that your army is in detachments, and that all the units (in all detachments) share a keyword. For an army of Death Guard and Daemons this keyword would be CHAOS. So long as all the detachments are divided so that all the Death Guard are in their own detachment and all the Daemons are in other detachments, you still get to choose a Plague Company for the Death Guard Detachment.

In a Battle-forged army, all of the units in your army – with exception of those that are Unaligned – must have at least one Faction Keyword in common (eg. Imperium or Chaos) even if they are in different detachments. [Core Book pg245]

Though unlike Nurgle’s Gift, Plague Company contagions only benefit units from that same Plague Company. An example here is Ferric Blight, which only gives friendly INEXORABLE units a bonus to their AP when attacking an enemy unit in contagion range.

They are not Auras

Note, that while similar in many regards to Aura abilities, Contagion abilities are not affected by abilities that affect Aura abilities, and vice-versa.

I’m really glad GW took the time to say this rather than just labelling the abilities Contagions and not Auras but leaving it there for players to resolve. This makes it completely clear that abilities that disable, reduce or extend Auras don’t work on them. Before anyone gets any ideas though, they also don’t stack:

The effects of multiple identically named Contagion abilities is not cumulative (i.e. if an enemy unit is within Range of two models with the same Contagion ability, that Contagion ability only applies to the enemy unit once).

Summoning and Contagions

What is currently not clear is how summoning affects units in a Death Guard army gaining the Nurgle’s Gift Contagion. Looking at the rule again there’s two possible interpretations in my opinion.

If every unit from your army has the DEATH GUARD keyword (excluding UNALIGNED units), this unit gains the following ability:

Nurgle’s Gift (Contagion): Whilst an enemy unit is within Contagion Range of this unit (see below), subtract 1 from the Toughness Characteristic of models in that enemy unit.

The first interpretation I have is that so long as your army met the condition once during the game, the units gain the ability at that time and keep it all battle, even if by summoning there’s a point where you don’t meet the condition. The second interpretation is that summoning causes your army to fail the condition and you can’t use Nurgle’s Gift from then on, with some extra debate on if a destroyed unit is still part of your army or not; which I think it would be.

There really isn’t an answer to this, but I think for now I’d recommend the second interpretation as losing abilities has been the precedent in the past for assassins though I personally think that summoning is not meant to break this, but the book doesn’t really acknowledge summoning at all.


Finally note that the Greater Blight Drone from Imperial Armour Compendium just has the Nurgle’s Gift Contagion ability all the time because of how its rules are worded.


Revolting Stench Vats

This is a new type of effect on the fight phase we haven’t seen before. It’s not a Fight Last ability like we’ve seen and is actually pretty different.

Revolting Stench Vats (Aura): While an enemy unit is within 6” of the bearer, that unit cannot make use of any rules that allow it to fight first and never counts as having made a charge move this turn.

This can actually cause a unit to end up unable to fight at all under a specific set of circumstances. Specifically, the rules for which units can fight state that “An eligible unit is one that is within Engagement Range of an enemy unit and/or made a charge move in the same turn.” (Core Rules, “Fight Phase,” Paragraph 1), which means that a unit affected by this that is pushed out of Engagement Range as a result of removing casualties won’t be eligible to fight, as shown below:

The Tallyman

Honestly we think this is just a bit much but the Seven-fold Chant Rules as written is an 83% chance at getting an extra CP per Battle Round.  The reason is the wording of their ability.

At the start of the Command Phase, if this model is on the Battlefield, roll 2D6: on a 7+, you gain 1 command point.

It’s not the start of “your command phase” it’s both. So you have two chances per Turn of rolling for this CP. Warning maths ahead. The probability of a 6 or less on 2D6 is 15/36… the probability of failing twice can be found by multiplying it by 15/36 again. Making the probability of failing this over two attempts 17.36% (subtracting this chance of failure from 100% gets you the 83% chance of success I stated. It is still a maximum of one per round though that can be gained from this, on top of the CP per round you gain from missions currently.

TheChirurgeon: This seems like an oversight and something likely to be corrected in a future FAQ, so don’t get too used to it.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Inexorable Advance

First things first, make sure you know which units actually have this rule.

Bubonic Astartes units in Death Guard detachments gain this Inexorable Advance ability.

This pretty much means marines and the tanks/walkers they managed to scarper with during the Heresy. Not Poxwalkers! The Daemon Engines also don’t get it though that’s perhaps less surprising.

Inexorable Advance and Transports

In what might be the first ever preemptive FAQ there were some possible interpretations that would have allowed Death Guard Transports to disembark after moving, because they count as “Remain Stationary”. 

Transports and Rules that Count as Remaining Stationary Some rules allow a model to count as having Remained Stationary, even if that model has moved during its Movement phase. Even if a Transport model is subject to such a rule, embarked models still cannot disembark from that Transport model during the Movement phase if that Transport model has already moved, unless that Transport model (or the models embarked within it) have a rule that explicitly allows them to disembark after the Transport model has moved.

This FAQ firmly prevents that though. Whilst I do think the rule itself could use a bit of tidying, such as defining a model’s previous movement phase when it’s just arrived from reinforcements or in turn 1, but these are small issues now in comparison to the rules implications for Transports.

Inexorable Advance vs Difficult Ground and more

I really want to be able to say that these rules have no issues and that Death Guard can march through the most difficult of terrain as if it was a mild inconvenience at most. However the rules are not quite written to establish that whilst I strong feel that “ignoring Difficult Ground” is the intention for Inexorable Advance, I regrettably don’t think it actual does so rules as written.

Inexorable Advance: If this Unit has the Infantry Keyword, it can ignore any or all modifiers to its Move Characteristic, Advance Rolls and Charge Rolls

The issue is that Difficult ground doesn’t modify any of those things.

If a unit makes a Normal Move, Advances, Falls Back or makes Charge Move and any of it’s models wish to move over any part of this terrain feature, subtract 2″ from the maximum distance that every model in that unit can move (to a minimum of 0″), even if every part of this terrain feature is 1″ or less in height. This penalty does not apply if every model in the moving unit can FLY.

Newer Codexes do contain abilities that would be ignored though, using this consistent wording, such as this Space Marine Stratagem.

Tremor Shells: Use this Stratagem in your Shooting phase, when selecting a target for a THUNDERFIRE CANNON model from your army. Until the end of the phase, each time that model makes a ranged attack, subtract 1 from that attack’s wound roll, and, if a hit is scored against a target that is not TITANIC and cannot FLY, then until the start of your next Movement phase, halve the Move characteristic of models in the target unit and subtract 2 from Advance rolls and charge rolls made for that unit.

Difficult Ground is an up-to-date rule for 9th edition though, but I would be aware of abilities from the 8th edition Codexes that also don’t quite line up with this. Such as the T’au Empire’s Gravity Wave Projector.

Gravity Wave Projector: Enemy units beginning a charge move within 12″ of any Grav-inhibitor Drones reduce their charge distance by D3″.

On the face of it that would also not be ignored by Inexorable Advance either, however Charge Distance was the name given to the result of the 2D6 roll that 9th edition now refers to as a Charge Roll. So I don’t feel too hesitant to say these terms are equivalent and to play that Inexorable Advance would ignore the effects of rules such as this. Using Tau as an example again as they conveniently already have an updated charge reduction rule in the Imperial Armour compendium, the XV9 Photon Casters ability has already been updated in line with this new wording.

Photon Casters: Each time this unit is declared as a target of a charge, subtract 2 from that charge roll.

What’s the conclusion though? I think personally I would recommend playing that Difficult Ground is ignored by Inexorable Advance, because that seems to be the intention. As ever though talk this out with your opponent pregame.


Deathshroud Bodyguards

I’m not sure if we’ve covered this but we’re three full codex releases into 9th edition (I’m not counting the supplements) and so far all three of them have included this new way that Bodyguards work in 9th edition. Gone are the old intercepting wounds mechanics that were often needlessly confusing and frequently differed in wording from faction-to-faction.

Bodyguard (Aura): While a friendly <PLAGUE COMPANY> CHARACTER unit that has a Wounds Characteristic of 9 or less is within 3” of this unit, enemy models cannot target that Character unit with ranged attacks.

Both the Space Marines and Necrons Codexes got units with this type of Bodyguard ability, and it’s worth covering how it interacts with some of the other shooting rules.

How does this work with Overwatch?

…Any rule that states the unit cannot be targeted unless it is the closest target (e.g. Look Out, Sir) does not apply when firing Overwatch.

The key thing to notice about how Overwatch disables Look Out, Sir is that it actually deactivates rules that prevent you from shooting at targets unless they are the closest target your unit has. The new Bodyguard ability is not this type of rule; its effects are not limited like Look Out, Sir’s to only preventing shots when the covering unit is a closer target. The unit also doesn’t need to be 3 or more models like a unit for Look Out Sir does (unless it’s a Monster or Vehicle).

How does this work against Snipers?

Bodyguards are Sniper proof so far in 9th.

Each time you select a target for this weapon, you can ignore the Look Out, Sir rule. 

So until the Character is stripped of it’s close protection it is entirely untargetable (until someone reminds me of a Stratagem or ability I’ve not found that is a loophole to this).


Stinky Steeve – Credit Beanith

Gloaming Bloat Warlord Trait and Miracle Dice

The Gloaming Bloat contagion prevents units within Engagement Range from re-rolling hit rolls or wound rolls. How does that interact with Miracle dice though? Best I can tell it doesn’t, here’s the specific rules on this to explain why:

Gloaming Bloat (Contagion): While an enemy unit is within Contagion Range of this unit:

  • That enemy unit cannot fire Overwatch of Set to Defend
  • Each Time a model in that enemy unit makes an attack, the hit roll and the wound roll cannot be re-rolled.

Miracle dice are not however re-rolled, and also can’t be re-rolled themselves.

Before making a dice roll for a model or unit from your army with the Acts of Faith ability, you can choose to use one or more of the dice from your miracle dice pool instead. For each individual dice that is being rolled as part of the dice roll, you can select one Miracle dice from your Miracle dice pool to be substituted in place of that dice. The dice that is being substituted for is not rolled, instead the value of the Miracle dice is used as if it had been rolled.

It then later says

When re-rolling a dice roll, no new Miracle dice may be substituted. The number and values of any Miracle dice that have already been substituted in the dice roll remain the same for the re-roll.

As these dice are treated as the original results and also subsequently already barred from being re-rolled they don’t interact with the Gloaming Bloat restriction.


Miasmic Malignifier Deployment

Can you palace this Fortification closer than 3” other other terrain? Well at the minute it’s not actually very clear. Its deployment rules don’t specifically state that it ignores the restriction.

During deployment, when you set up this model, it can be set up anywhere on the battlefield that is more than 12” away from the enemy deployment zone and any enemy models. After a Miasmic Malignifer is set up on the battlefield, you can then set up  one Pox Furnace terrain feature wholly within 6” of it and more than 12” away from the enemy deployment zone.

The question is if not mentioning the current limit but providing new ones counts as “otherwise stating” for the fortification deployment rule.

Units with the Fortifications Battlefield Role are terrain features that are part of your army. Unless otherwise stated, when setting Fortifications up on the battlefield, they cannot be set up within 3″ of any other terrain feature that is not part of its own datasheet (excluding hills, page 260). If it is not possible to set up a Fortification as a result, it cannot be deployed and counts as having been destroyed. Fortifications can never be placed into Strategic Reserves (pg 256).

While I personally think it does count as “otherwise stating” doing so then leads to more questions, like if you can deploy these inside area terrain. I don’t think there’s going to be an actual answer on this though until the Death Guard FAQ.

Have any questions or feedback? Got a rules question you want answered? Drop us a note in the comments below, ask a question in our Ruleshammer form, or head over to r/ruleshammer to discuss.


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