Ruleshammer: Unleash Hell (and How to Play Around It)

With Age of Sigmar 3.0’s new rules out, we can finally ask ourselves the question: “What if Overwatch, but not hitting on 6s, and units who aren’t even being charged can use it?”

No, I’ve got no idea what they were thinking either, but it seems like this is a thing we’re doing now:

Credit: Games Workshop

Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether this rule is a good idea (in this author’s opinion, it is not), how does it work and, more importantly, what can we do to play around it, and only get completely shot off the board sometimes?  Let’s start by taking a look at how it actually works, then go deep into the workarounds we have.


Point and Click 2: Pointier and Clickier

There are a few reasons why this rule is so powerful, and that we’ll need to take into account:

  • That 9″ bubble.  You can have (for example) 30 Sentinels sitting pretty behind blocks of 10 Wardens, with their extreme range.  Sit back and play objectives, and they will remove your heroes, then Battleshock off your troops.  Charge them, hit the screen and they will shoot you off on your own turn.  In a game that was already heavily stacked towards ranged armies, this tilts the table further in that direction.
  • It’s not Rock, Paper Scissors.  There is relatively little anti-shooting in this game.  Describing it as RPS is deceptive, implying as it does an epic, rolling struggle between different aspects of the game, and that’s simply not the case – shooting is just better.  There are a couple of edge case armies (such as IDK) that handle it very, very well but that’s not Rock, Paper Scissors: it’s a skewed meta, and an edge-case solution.
  • Negative 1 to hit is not fit for purpose.  The most powerful shooting units tend to be fishing for mortal wounds on unmodified 5s or 6s, so negative 1 to hit won’t scare them in the slightest.

There are also, however, a couple of things that give us a glimmer of hope.

  • Any given Command Ability can only be used once per phase.  Overwatch 101 is therefore multi-charging with several units:

Credit: Games Workshop

  • A unit cannot fall back and then overwatch in the same turn.  It’s one or the other:

Credit: Games Workshop

So with that established, let’s see what we can do about it.


The Maneuvers

Option 1: The 6″ Pile In

This has always been a heavyweight ability: both the Redeploy command ability and the separation between running and retreating mitigate some of its power, but boy will you be glad you’ve got it here.

Strut into combat like you own the damn thing, and engage without having to charge.  Wonderful.

Key units: Sisters of Slaughter, Zombies, Yhetees

Option 2: The Chaff Tag

Charge with something cheap, then when you follow up with your real threat, you are already within 3″ and they can’t use the CA.

Your opponent can use Unleash Hell to shoot up your chaff, and stop those units getting within 3″; but given that you can only use any given Command Ability once per turn, you’ll still be free to charge to your heart’s content after that.  Unless they’ve got Shackles, in which case not so much.

This will be the bread-and-butter play for most combat units in the game, but it’s not a perfect solution:

  • Firstly, you’ll lose the tagging unit for nothing, when it would otherwise have tied up a shooting unit for the next turn and wasted their output
  • Secondly, it’s effectively a backdoor points hike for all combat units, since they will need a chaff escort in order to participate in the game
  • Thirdly, it won’t help if you have to charge into a screen, because the absurdly generous 9″ range means that they can shoot you off even if you aren’t charging that unit

Key units: Literally anything cheap.

Option 3: The Flying Chaff Tag

Same same but different, this is essentially the same idea but with a flying chaff unit that can leapfrog a screen.

Zip over the Wardens and into the Sentinels, and they can either shoot off your chaff, or not.  But either way you are good to go thereafter.

Key units: Cheap flying units: Aetherwings, Squig Hoppers, Nighthaunt in general.

Option 4: Bullet Sponges

If you have to charge, and don’t have the luxury of chaff, you’re going to have to make sure you’re built for war.

You’ll get shot as you make your way across the board, shot when you charge the chaff screen, shot again on their turn and shot again when you charge the shooting unit.  Yay, interactive!

It won’t be easy to survive that, but the new universal enhancements should help:

Credit: Games Workshop

Key units: Buffed-up Mega Gargant, with some combination of the 40 wounds command trait, +1 to save and the Amulet of Destiny.

Option 5: The Incredible Hulk

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee – his hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.

Well fortunately for you, Muhammad Ali did not write the rules for AOS 3rd Ed.

Credit: Games Workshop

it’s right there in black and white, you don’t need line of sight to punch somebody.  If your opponent deploys up against a wall, charge that mofo wall and punch right through that wall.

Credit: Manuel Rohena

We can achieve something similar with Endless Spells, using the Prismatic Palisade to swing arms over the top of it; and as pointed out by AgentEscher in the Goonhammer Discord, Sentinels only get to ignore Line of Site in the Shooting Phase, so they can just cop it like everyone else.  Nice.

Key units: Extended melee range helps here, so Big Stabbas, Wardens and even the new Kruleboyz are positioned well if the opportunity arises.

Option 6: Build your own edge case

There are a couple of gems hidden in the universal enhancements, including this cheeky spell:

Credit: Games Workshop

Terraform the board and create a blocker right where you need it.  Given the 3″ range it won’t generally work against shooting units themselves – although even then, you can potentially put a healthy chunk of the unit in the dark.  The true strength of this one is allowing you to advance up the board, clean up the screens and only wear a single round of dakka at the final hurdle.

Key units: Umm, y’know…Wizards.

Option 7: Charge them off the board

If you can charge into the actual shooting threat – and not the screening unit – with a unit that does impact hits, you can hopefully kill a few before they get the chance to annihilate you on your own turn.

The issue you’ll have is that very few units who can do this are able to fly over screens, and the number of impact mortals they dish out is generally not enough to blow up a whole unit, so you’ll still take some dakka to the face.  There is a new universal spell that can help with the former at least:

Credit: Games Workshop

Key units: This is Ogors’ “thing” in general, although Sons of Behemat, Kragnos and even Bullgors can now do it too.

Option 8: Charge out of phase

You know when you can use Unleash Hell?  In the Charge phase – and only in the charge phase.

Credit: Games Workshop

There are a couple of combat armies who get to charge outside of that window, which will help immensely.  As an Orruk Stan, Big Waaagh and Ironjawz leap to mind:

Mighty Destroyers: The Ironjawz allow nothing to stop them from getting to grips with their enemies.

You can use this command ability in your hero phase. If you do so, pick 1 friendly IRONJAWZ unit wholly within 12″ of a friendly IRONJAWZ HERO or wholly within 18″ of a friendly IRONJAWZ HERO that is a general. That unit must make a normal move if it is more than 12″ from any enemy units, must fight if it is within 3″ of any enemy units, and must attempt to charge in any other circumstances. You cannot pick the same unit to benefit from this command ability more than once per hero phase.

But I’ve also been chatting with ya boy http://@Eat_Bray_Love , who reminded me that mighty Khorne can do the same by spending 3 Blood Tithes:

Murderlust: All servants of Khorne feel the urge to kill, but when prey is near the impulse becomes all-consuming.

Pick 1 friendly KHORNE unit; that unit can make a normal move. If it is within 12″ of an enemy model, it can either make a normal move or attempt to make a charge move.


Key units: Ironjawz, Big Waaagh and Khorne.  Doosh.

Option 9: Pile In to them

There are several reasons why Sentinels are particularly well-placed to exploit this rule:

  • They are fishing for mortals, so don’t care about -1 to hit
  • They are fishing for mortals, so don’t care about 2+ armour saves
  • Their puny points increase of only 10 points is in no way reflective of the power of shooting in both players’ turns

So far, so standard for GW’s rampant Aelf favoritism.  Where it gets really silly is that as well as being a prime culprit of overwatch, Lumineth also enjoy access to some of the best workarounds for it.  Oh joy.

Move Like the Wind: Hurakan warriors are almost impossible to pin down in combat. They swirl around their foes, first closing to strike and then performing gravity-defying leaps to take them over or away from their enemies.

When you make a pile-in move with a HURAKAN model, it does not have to finish the move at least as close to the nearest enemy model. In addition, when you make a pile-in move with a HURAKAN model, if it made a charge move in the same turn, it can fly and can move an extra 3″ when it piles in.

Designer’s Note: These rules allow Hurakan models to flow around enemy units in combat and to back off from fights that do not favour them.

You got that?  Charge the combat unit, then pile into the shooting unit, locking them up and preventing them from using Unleash Hell.

Key units: Hurakan Windchargers.

Option 10: Stop them from using CPs

What if we can stop them using Unleash Hell at all?

Unfortunately the Roar monstrous rampage triggers in the wrong window, coming at the end of the charge phase (and therefore after Hell has been Unleashed):

Credit: Games Workshop

But there are other ways we can switch it off.  Specifically, Lumineth can force their opponents to spend 2 CP for every Command Ability with the Total Eclipse spell (potentially putting it beyond reach), or even prevent them from doing it altogether:

Howling Gale:  The caster directs a gang of obstreperous currents towards a group of foes that make it impossible for them to hear commands.

Howling Gale has a casting value of 7. If successfully cast, pick 1 enemy unit within 12″ of the caster that is visible to them. That unit cannot use or benefit from command abilitiesuntil your next hero phase.

Key units: Whaddya know, it’s Lumineth again.

Option 11: Give up and run an Order army

You can pull all the tricks to try and actually play Warhammer, or you can just run a heap of Sentinels.  With the exception of 6″ Pile Ins, every workaround I’ve listed above is still a net loss for the combat army – whether that’s having to flush hundreds of points of chaff down the toilet just to get into combat, or getting partially shot up instead of totally shot off the board.  Even with these workarounds, most combat armies are still going to be worse off than before; it’s just a question of how much worse.

Personally, I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees, but this rule can skew some matchups so heavily that I wouldn’t blame anyone for just throwing in the towel and just pushing Morathi forward, which is a simple answer to so many of life’s complex problems.


Final thoughts on the rule

With all that said, what are my final thoughts on the rule?

The flow of the game, or the Zapp Brannigan art of warfare

If this rule works as was presumably intended, it will have a major impact on the shape and flow of a game.  You’ll be attacking with wave after wave, charging chaff into gunlines units to soak up the dakka, or putting combat units that offer a credible threat into screens to draw out the sting. You don’t just need chaff and death stars: you need plausible hammers that can take down a chaff wall (units like Mournfang are great for that).  You’ll call their bluff, daring them to use their only CP; you’ll be engaging on multiple fronts, a series of little wars clearing the stage for your centrepiece unit to step up and layeth the smacketh down in an epic, climactic moment.

And you know what?  That will happen in real world games.  A lot.

Where I have an issue with this rule is that it heavily favours the Haves (Shooting) over the Have Nots (Not Shooting). Sentinels are not priced to take this into account.


The other thing this will do is get you making decisions and rolling dice on your opponent’s turn.

I would argue this wasn’t needed, or more specifically it wasn’t where we needed more interactivity. It’s clear from other rules that the AoS designers want us to be more active on opponent’s turn – and that’s great – but charge reactions do not achieve that.

Getting charged by an opponent was one of the few ways we were already consistently active on our opponent’s turn, because that’s the point at which we’re getting into combat and alternating unit activations. Getting shot off the table on your own turn was not the kind of “interactivity” we were looking for, quite frankly, and there’s nothing here to enable interactivity in your opponent’s shooting phase.  Most armies will still be doing literally nothing but rolling saves and removing models across a double turn of shooting.

Ultimately we’ll be living with Unleash Hell for at least another year, so hopefully this article gives you some tools to deal with it and keep your games flowing.  Maybe the next General’s Handbook will dial it back but until then: make sure you bring the Dakka…or the anti-Dakka.

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