LPG - Add, Return, and Remove From Play

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This article is part of Warmachine University's Learning to Play the Game (LPG) series, which is "Intermediate Training" aimed at new players who are still learning the core rules.
(See also Basic Training and Advanced Training.)

In this lesson we'll first cover the normal way models die ('Disabled-Boxed-Destroyed'), then talk about how the Add-Return-Remove processes mix that all up, before finishing with a comment about the proper re-use of physical models in a single game.


Gerlak Slaughterborn can go on a killing spree because he has two abilities that trigger when he destroys an enemy (Overtake and Berserk). They let him move and attack more enemies, and he can mukch enemy infantry like a super-sized Pac Man.
Exemplar Errants' main defensive tech is Self-Sacrifice which triggers at disabled and lets them choose whether the attacked model is destroyed by the enemy attack, or a different model is destroyed by the sacrifice ability.
Gerlak really doesn't like them because if they use sacrifice he doesn't get credit for the kill, and that stops his killing spree cold.

Most other games on the market don't complicate the "death" of a playing piece - it's either alive and in play, or dead and not. Those games might have a 'Saving Throw', but that's about it.

Privateer Press, on the other hand, wanted a system where different "death" abilities could be resolved without ambiguities or conflict about which happens first. So we have a more nuanced four-step process for what happens when a model loses its last hitpoint.

  1. Disabled
    • You've been hit hard enough to stop fighting.
    • Things that trigger at this step are normally either something to let you keep fighting (such as Tough and Inhuman Resolve) or a booby-trap to punish the enemy for killing you (like Thrall Bomb and Fiery Explosion).
  2. Boxed
    • You're all but dead. Last breath, walking towards the light, etc.
    • Things that trigger at this step are normally something of the attacker's that uses the last of your life energy for one last malicious act (like Pyscho Venom, Bone Shaker, or Eruption of Ash).
  3. Destroyed
    • Now you're dead. (Or a wrecked construct or a non-ambulatory undead, respectively.)
    • Things that trigger at this step are mostly an attacker's bonus for successfully killing an enemy (like Berserk, Overtake, or Run & Gun); but occasionally it's a nearby survivor getting a bonus to help them get revenge (like Righteous Vengeance).
    • After resolving those abilities, you then resolve the collection of any corpse token and soul token that might be relevant.
      Sometimes models are Removed From Play right at the destroyed step, before souls/corpses are generated.
  4. Remove from table
    • Moving the physical model off the table is a distinctly separate step to it being destroyed.
      Mainly because several of the abilities triggered at step 3 depend on the exact position of the destroyed model. It is rude to yank models off the table before your opponent has a chance to measure them.
    • Note that "Remove from table" is quite different to "Remove from play."

Mnemonic of Death

Dannon Blythe & Bull have Take Down which triggers at disabled and prevents the damaged model making a Tough check (which normally also triggers at disabled).
Disabled ⇨ Boxed ⇨ Destroyed.

Memorising the correct order to trigger abilities will streamline your turns greatly, rather than constantly looking up the rule book for "was it boxed first then disabled, or ...?"

A useful mnemonic device is "Don't Be Dead" when you're being attacked, or "Do Be Dead" when you're the one doing the attacking. Just repeat these to yourself before you start rolling dice and you'll never need to consult the rulebook again.


Bane Lord Tartarus has Death Toll which lets him Add models to friendly Bane units when he kills enemies.
The Bane Warrior Officer has a once-per-game ability Void Bringer which lets him Return Banes to his own unit.


This one is fairly simple - you get to put a new model into play, regardless of previous events. These sorts of abilities are normally some form of necromancy or mutating the enemy into friendly troops, but occasionally it can be activating equipment (like Siege2's rocket turret).

The only complicated part is that the word "add" isn't actually used in the rules. Instead it uses phrases like "place a Grunt within 3" and in formation" or like "replace the destroyed model with the Deathstalker" so you need to figure it out from context, a bit.

Tip lightbulb.png

Tip !
By the way, the term "replace" is a defined game term with its own rules.

Things to note about Add:

  • When you add models to a unit, you can increase it beyond its starting size (unless stated otherwise on the ability).
  • You can use a new model from your gamebag, or reuse a model that previously died.
  • In a tournament game, if you want to add a model but don't own one (that isn't already in use), then you don't get to add that model.
    In a friendly game, you can proxy it with a different kind of model.


This is similar to Add, but you can only Return models that have previously been destroyed and are currently Removed From Table (and you cannot Return models that have been Removed From Play).

Most of the Return abilities are used to put unit members back into play (like Revive and Deathbound), but occasionally you'll get a feat that will let you return a solo or warbeast, etc (like Thagrosh1

Things to note about Return:

  • You should reuse the same model that previously died. It is, after all, the same model.
  • You can't Return a model that has been Removed From Play.
  • If the model has a "once per game" ability which it has already used, it can't use it a 2nd time.
  • If the model already activated this turn, it can't activate a 2nd time.


The Devil's Shadow Mutineers have a cool ability Blood-Bound, which means that every time they destroy an enemy they Remove that enemy and get to Return a member of their own unit.

Remove From Play actually has two functions, the second of which is often far more useful.

Function One: Anti-Recursion
Simply put, a model that has been Removed From Play is not eligible to be Returned To Play. This stops any army that depends on recursion mechanics dead in their tracks.

Function Two: Anti-Ability
The more subtle effect is how Remove From Play can interrupt the normal Disabled-Boxed-Destroyed process. Different RFP abilities trigger at different steps, and immediately get the model off the table before later steps are reached.

For example:

  • Consume will RFP a small-based model just when it hits them. It doesn't damage them, it doesn't disable them, it just takes them straight out of the game. So small-based models never get a Tough roll (disabled) or produce souls (destroyed) or etc.
  • Bone Shaker will RFP the target once it is boxed. So the target will get a tough roll (disabled) but it won't produce a corpse/soul token (destroyed).

Physical models

Many armies don't really care about the difference between Remove From Play and Remove From Table. These armies don't have any Return abilities, so dead is simply dead and the physical models just get shoved off to one side.

But if you have a Return ability, and your opponent has a Remove ability, then the distinction is important. Let alone if you have Return and Add abilities, or if you have multiple units all of the same kind that can have models returned to them. When these sorts of armies play, proper bookkeeping is essential.

The best way to do bookkeeping is:

  1. Have two dead piles, one for destroyed models and one for removed models.
    • Use some spare rulers or strips of paper to form a "jail cell" for the Removed models. Or just put them straight in your carry case.
    • If you have an Add ability, take Removed models out of the "jail cell" first. Since that is the only way a Removed model is going to get back on the table, it makes sense to grab them before you grab the Destroyed models.
  2. If you have multiple units, they should be painted differently so your opponent can tell them apart. For instance, one unit has green cloaks and the other has purple cloaks.
    • When you Return a model, you should always Return one that has the right colour cloak.
      If none of the guys in the dead pile have the right colour cloak then guess what? You know instantly that you have no one valid to be Returned.
    • If you get to Add a model, and the only spare model you have is one with the wrong cloak colour, you could add the wrong cloak guy but make sure you put some sort of token next to him to remind you to "ignore" his cloak.
      • For instance, if you get to Add a model to the green unit and the only spare model has a purple cloak, you could put the purple guy on the table with a green gem beside him.
      • And by gem I mean those plastic bead things. You can find them at your local dollar-store in the arts and crafts section.

See Also