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Seeker Missiles and Flatting Out
Old 05 Feb 2014, 15:00   #1 (permalink)
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Default Seeker Missiles and Flatting Out

TL : DR - "Piranha Seekers can potentially get around the limitation on vehicles not being able to spend markerlight chips to fire them after flatting out."

I've noticed this come up on a few forums before, and this seems to be an issue of some speculation. Regardless of my interpretation here, I'd really like to know how everyone has handled this in their games if they have come across it, or how you believe it could be handled.

The basis of this question is whether or not a vehicle equipped with a seeker missile can fire it AND move flat out in the same turn. But since GW rules are absolutely littered with constrictions on the order of events, let's get our timing right.

In order for this to happen, the unit firing the seeker must spend a markerlight token that has been placed on its target. Our codex on pg. 68 states that:

"Immediately before a unit from Codex: Tau Empire shoots at a target that has one or more markerlight counters, it can declare it is using one or more of tl1e markerlight abilities listed below."

As such, to 'unlock' the special firing mode of the markerlight-guided seeker, a markerlight chip must be spent immediately before a model 'shoots at a target'. The exact details of order in the shooting process are too long to list, but the targeting of a unit occurs after one of your units is nominated to shoot, but before it fires. As such, the rulebook on pg. 12 states that:

"Certain situations prevent a model from firing... Their unit is running..."

So because a unit is running (flatting out fills the same rule place for vehicles as running), it cannot go through the shooting steps, and thus cannot target a model. For our situation, because a flatting out vehicle cannot shoot (and thus cannot target) in the same phase, it would not be able to employ a markerlight chip in this manner. While the seeker is not limited by the unit's firing, the fact that the spending of a markerlight chip is done based on the targeting of a unit, this step cannot be taken because the entire process of shooting is foregone by the vehicle when it flats out.

While GW uses 'shooting' and 'firing' interchangeably, for our purposes here it's important to note that the restriction on 'firing' from flat out includes the entire shooting sequence, not just steps 3 through 5. In line with this interpretation of the rules, a vehicle which flats out cannot spend markerlight chips, and thus cannot fire seeker missiles in a way that uses them (or in a normal shooting attack, clearly). However, this gets even more tricky.

Vehicle squadrons are listed as an exception to the Flat Out rule, and on pg. 77 the rulebook states that:

"Vehicles in squadrons can declare individually whether or not they are going to move Flat Out. Note that unit coherency must still be maintained. Those that do not move Flat Out can shoot as normal."

As such, a squadron of vehicles (such as piranhas) could be mixed between some models that flat out, and some that don't. This is where the wording of the markerlight rule becomes particularly unhelpful. Because the codex emphasizes UNITS for this wording, it is the full squadron of vehicles that are spending the markerlight chips, not individual vehicles. And as established earlier, the rule forbidding the use of seekers after flatting out is the fact that the markerlight chips themselves cannot be spent in the same shooting phase that vehicle flats out. I imagine you can already see where this is going. Let me change the scenario for this rule problem thusly:

A squadron of three piranhas are each armed with two seekers a piece, and are engaging a markerlit leman russ which they have little chance of damaging on front armor. The piranhas end their movement phase only 8 inches away, but still face the russ' front armor. Hoping to get around this, the Tau player flats out two of his piranhas, moving one up 4 inches to maintain unit coherency, and the third 4 inches ahead of the second. Between these movements and the size of the piranhas, the furthest forward piranha has gained 12" inches of movement and is now far enough behind the russ to be facing rear armor.

However, the first piranha has not flatted out, and chooses instead to fire in the shooting phase. As such, it can still spend markerlight chips, and being in the same 'unit' as the other two piranhas, these can be applied to any vehicle in the squadron. This begs the question: "When does flatting out occur in the shooting phase?" Again, the rulebook is similarly unhelpful. The only note on flatting out in the rulebook on pg. 72 states:

"A vehicle can elect to move Flat Out instead of firing in the Shooting phase, immediately moving up to 6"..."

Again, because of GW's use of 'firing' and 'shooting' to mean the same thing, this does not specify when in the shooting phase this occurs, and could be assumed to mean it could happen at any point depending on the player's choosing, or take up the entire shooting phase. In either case, it is still entirely possible to flat out squadroned vehicles first, and then spend markerlights and shoot (including target) another vehicle in the squadron second.

Using this interpretation, everything up to the point of spending markerlights is correct. We have a squadron of piranhas in cohesion, and the shooting phase begun in the order of the controlling player's choosing. Since there is still one piranha that has not flatted out, it can still spend markerlight chips. It chooses to do so, employing two markerlights to fire seeker missiles at it's selected target, the leman russ. Since the 'unit' has spent the markerlight chips, any vehicle in the squadron can then fire the seeker missiles. The player then chooses to fire two seekers off the furthest forward piranha. This is where the rules for firing seekers in this way are important. Pg 68 of our codex states:

"For each markerlight counter expended on this ability, the unit immediately fires a single seeker missile (if it has one) in addition to any other weapons it is permitted to fire. A seeker missile fired in this way:
- Does not need line of sight.
- Must be fired at the same target as the vehicle's other weapons.
- Is resolved at Ballistic Skill 5.
- Has the Ignores Cover special rule.
- Does not reduce the number of weapons a vehicle can fire at its full Ballistic Skill.
- Does count towards the limit of 2 missiles that a flyer can fire each turn."

So the most important parts for this example are that the seeker can be fired off any model in the unit by the player's choosing, and that while occurring simultaneously with the rest of the unit's shooting attack, it is not limited by the inability to fire from flat out, as it does not count toward limitations on the vehicles other weapons. Because the vehicle is firing the seeker at a unit targeted by another vehicle in it's squadron, the targeting portion of the shooting sequence is satisfied. Though the vehicle that the seeker is coming from cannot target anything, the 'unit' is still targeting something, and using markerlights and firing the seeker. Because the rule does not specify individual vehicles spending markerlight chips, everything thus far would follow rules. Just because the vehicle the seeker missile is coming from cannot target anything would not in itself prevent it from using it's seeker. Just as not being able to 'target' a unit out of line of sight, or because of nightfighting rules does not prevent it from using a seeker.

All of this is completely mute for vehicles outside of squadrons. Flatting out keeps the unit from spending markerlight chips, and as such none of it's seekers can be fired this way. But specifically because individual vehicles in a squadron can flat out without the whole squadron needing to, and the fact that units; not individual vehicles spend markerlight chips, it seems like a situation which GW had not predicted. The above interpretation seems completely legal to me, but I am focusing on one point: the wording of how vehicles are allowed to fire seekers.

Because a vehicle firing a seeker specifically needs to "fire at the same target as the vehicle's other weapons", this might imply that even vehicles in a squadron cannot employ seekers, even though the using of markerlight chips is legal, the individual vehicle's inability to target after flatting out (since targeting is part of the 'shooting' that it must forego), would prevent it from firing it's seekers, even if the unit has spent a markerlight chip for that purpose. The rule was very clearly intended to keep vehicles from spending markerlight chips for seekers on a separate target from the rest of its weapons, thus allowing it to split fire. This is how seekers were employed before 6th edition, since it was the unit placing the markerlight; not the unit the seeker was coming from, that 'fired' it as a weapon. Such a change was made to better fit the change to markerlights which prevented units from benefitting from their own markerlight hits (due to order of how chips are spent) unless they were networked.

However because the markerlight tokens are spent immediately before a shooting attack but during the shooting phase, it then stands to reason that flatting out squadron-mate vehicles BEFORE spending markerlight chips (and making said shooting attack) is entirely possible. And though an individual vehicle that flatted out cannot target what another vehicle in the same 'unit' is targeting, said inability to 'target' a unit does not prevent a seeker from being fired in this manner in any similar situation.

So then, would this example be considered legal? Does the order of shooting phase events and mixed flatting out of a squadron allow seekers to be fired in this way, or would the seekers on the piranhas that flatted out just be unusable when the unit employs markerlights before a shooting attack?

I would argue that this is legal, simply because of the other examples of where seeker missiles can be fired by units that cannot actually 'target' the model that they are spending markerlight chips to fire on. Since the restriction on firing from flat out applies separately to individual vehicles in a squadron, the squadron as a unit can still spend markerlight chips, and thus be able to fire any seeker in the unit regardless of whether the individual model or vehicle it comes from can actually 'target' the unit the squadron is firing on.

As a side note, I realize simply from the length of this post that this is involves a hell of a lot of hoops to jump through as far as rules are concerned, and that's probably a sign that it's something that should be prevented even if isn't technically illegal. That said, the logic follows though complex and basic rules just fine, and the capabilities of certain cheese units (even non-character ones like the helldrake) are similarly difficult to follow through the maze of timing-order and overlapping special rules. Even in a semi-competitive environment, I wouldn't hesitate once to use this tactic unless someone could proveably demonstrate an entry that would prevent it.
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Last edited by ColdCast; 05 Feb 2014 at 15:06.
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Old 06 Feb 2014, 02:13   #2 (permalink)
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I'm going to have to disagree with you on this. I think this says enough: "Must be fired at the same target as the vehicle's other weapons." If a vehicle can't fire its weapons normally, as in from moving flat out, it cannot fire a seeker missile. My opinion is that if a vehicle uses a markerlight token, for example the piranha that did not move flat out, it must be the one to fire its seeker missile. If it doesn't have one, it can't use the markerlight token for that purpose.

Your supposition is based on rather thin logic and dancing around wording. Ask any Games Workshop rules expert and I'm sure they will tell you that it's illegal.
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Old 06 Feb 2014, 08:40   #3 (permalink)
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I agree with Wildy. Flat Out prevents you from Shooting, and Markerlights are used as a part of Shooting.
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