Games Workshop has previewed the new version of the Disgustingly Resilient rule for the upcoming Death Guard codex for 9th edition Warhammer 40,000. It is a big change from how the rule has worked since 8th edition.
The old version of Disgustingly Resilient has been shared by the Death Guard and Nurgle Daemons for all of 8th edition. It’s rules text is as follows:
Each time a model with this ability loses a wound, roll a dice; on a 5+, the model does not lose that wound.
That rule let models with it, which is almost everything the Death Guard field, ignore a third of any damage thrown at them whether from weapon attacks or mortal wounds and gave the army a good amount of extra durability.
The new version in the preview reads as follows:
Each time an attack is allocated to a model in this unit, subtract 1 from the Damage characteristic of that attack (to a minimum of 1).
In the preview, Games Workshop claims that this is an improvement, but I don’t really see it that way. In almost all cases, this new rule seems weaker than the 8th edition version of Disgustingly Resilient.
Before I go further, I’ll call out that I haven’t seen the whole codex yet. Based on the previews so far, I know some information about the new Plague Marine stat line and a few rules, but there could be plenty of surprises in the full book that change how things play out. But for now, here are my thoughts on the preview.
Drawbacks of the New Rule
I think the new rule is generally less powerful than the old version and doesn’t do as good of a job satisfying the story expectations for how durable Plague Marines are.
The most common attacks in the game are single damage weapons. This is what will be fired at units like Plague Marines the most. While the old Disgustingly Resilient negated a third of these incoming shots, the new rule does nothing. In fact, because of how wound rolls scale, a Plague Marine is now no more resilient to massed lasgun fire than a normal Space Marine who hasn’t been blessed by Nurgle. That feels like a place where the rules are not living up to the story of the game. The extra point of toughness that Plague Marines have does still help against S4 and S5 attacks though, making them a bit more resilient than other marines even though Disgustingly Resilient no longer helps.
The best case for the new rule is against attacks that deal 2 damage. These seem to be becoming more common throughout the game with 9th edition as a counterbalance to Space Marines moving to 2 wounds. Against these attacks, models with the new Disgustingly Resilient ignore half the damage inflicted rather than only a third of the damage with the old rule. If an opponent invests a lot in 2 damage weapons like plasma, heavy bolters, and autocanons to deal with Space Marines, then Death Guard will have an advantage since they will tend to take twice as many shots to kill.
Against higher damage weapons, neither version of Disgustingly Resilient is very likely to help Plague Marines survive much. With the new rule any wound for 3 or more damage kills a Plague Marine. The old rule would give some chance for survival that diminishes as the damage increases. For example, a Plague Marine (with 2 wounds) would survive a 3 damage wound about 25% of the time an a 4 damage wound about 10% of the time. The old rule is better because it gives a chance of survival, but high damage at least fits the flavor as a way to negate the durability granted by Nurgle’s blessings.
The other big downgrade in the new rule is that it only applies to attacks. This means that Disgustingly Resilient is no longer a built-in way to ignore mortal wounds for the Death Guard. They’ll be just as vulnerable as Space Marines to smites, vehicle explosions, and orbital bombardments.
While the new Disgustingly Resilient isn’t as good as the old version of the rule, moving to 2 wounds does mean that Plague Marines will still be more resilient than they were in 8th edition. The difference between Plague Marines and Space Marines isn’t as big as it was in 8th edition though.
Benefits of the New Rule
While I don’t like the new version of Disgustingly Resilient as much, I can see some gameplay advantages to it. First, the rule involves less rolling and so in theory it should allow for faster resolution of attacks. In particular, it avoids the situation where you would need to roll sets of dice sequentially when a Plague Marine unit was wounded by multiple shots of a weapon that dealt more than 1 damage. The new rule is also more consistent. Finally, the new version’s high impact on damage 2 weapons creates an interesting balance niche for Death Guard where they counteract the incentive to stock up on 2 damage weapons that was introduced by all marines moving to 2 wounds per model.
As I mentioned, this is all based on previews rather than the whole book. There might be more changes in the codex that address some of the issues I have with the new rule. Will Poxwalkers move to 2 wounds each so that they can benefit from this new version of Disgustingly Resilient or will they get some different rule to represent their toughness? Will Nurgle Daemons get an FAQ that updates them to match the new version of the rule, or will we live with two different variations of Disgustingly Resilient until the 9th edition Chaos Daemons codex is released? Will damage 2 weapons be prevalent enough in 9th edition games that the new version will end up being a consistent advantage? For all those questions, we’ll have to wait and see how things play out in 2021.