First principles: if all else is equal, simple is better.
The discussion around Overwatch has been both interesting and frustrating to watch at the same time. After reading many comments I ended up more confused than when I’d started, and so I decided to take a step back and return to first principles. It felt like we were getting into ever murkier waters, with all sorts of convoluted situations and logical loops.
Don’t get me wrong: this is my fault. You guys are just trying to understand it, and it’s not clear enough. So, how to make it clearer?
Well, I always start with what’s printed. Once a game is live then what is written and current should be changed as little as possible. That’s my view. It’s fine to clarify what’s not clear, or correct typos and whatnot if they can’t be resolved without change. However, in this case there is a perfectly reasonable way to play Overwatch from what is written in the rules. All you have to do is ignore a confusing comment I wrote in the FAQ. That’s fine. When I post the new FAQ it will be gone.
So, to go back to the rules as they stand in the book, do we need to make any changes? At the moment, I think I need to add a note that you cannot have more than one Overwatch counter on a model at once. This question comes up with the Sentry ability. There is also one phrase that needs to be explained a bit, or perhaps rephrased (see below).
With that in mind, using just what’s written in the rules, how does Overwatch work?
Let’s say I have a model called Bob in my Strike Team. When it comes to my Turn I could activate Bob to Move, Shoot, and so on as normal. Instead, I decide to put him on Overwatch. The Overwatch rules (p31) say I place an Overwatch counter by the model as a reminder. The Turn sequence (p21) also states that I mark him with an activated marker as he has chosen an action (nothing in the rules says I should treat him differently from other models in this regard). The activated marker means that he cannot have another action allocated to him, while the Overwatch counter means that resolving this chosen action has been deferred. So far, so good.
If Bob uses his Overwatch to react to an enemy action then resolve it as per the normal rules. People seem to be pretty clear on how this works. I’ll deal with the odd wrinkle (mostly sentry guns and Indirect fire) in the FAQ proper.
If Bob gets to the end of the Round without using his Overwatch then this counter will remain in place. However, like all other activated counters, Bob’s will be removed at the end of the Round. Again, this is what is written in the rulebook as it stands.
So, Bob could potentially start a new Round with an Overwatch counter already beside him. (This is the situation a model with Sentry starts every Round in.) What does that mean? It means that Bob is still on Overwatch and can react to enemy actions as described in those rules. However, he has not got an activated counter and so he could be given a different action in any of my subsequent Turns¹. Following on from this, if he does react and loses his Overwatch counter then he will still not have been activated this Round. His Overwatch was last Round’s action deferred. So he can be given a new action, which could be Overwatch again.
I think this is both clear and resolves most of the questions posed. Apologies for the confusion.
1: This is the meaning of the phrase at the bottom of the left hand column on page 31. This new action is likely to be in a subsequent Round, but need not be. It must, however, always be in a subsequent Turn. This means that there is always a least a small gap in the Overwatch coverage of a single model for an opponent to exploit.