Updated: Dec 31, 2019
I have seen a lot of confusion around this issue lately, so thought I would take a stab at clearing it up.
Although I do think the rules+FAQs around actions, activations, and reactions are technically sound from a mechanical perspective (meaning we do know how they work, and there are not many actual grey areas I know of), they can absolutely be confusing.
Most of the confusion I see comes from the way the new rules changed in Beastgrave and the FAQ from late in Nightvault. Unfortunately, if you are just reading the Beastgrave rule book, you likely will not be playing everything correctly.
How It Works
Below I will explain how the game currently works. Am I sure I am right? Yes! But I will also do my best to explain each step, and if you have any questions, please let me know and I will try to explain it in a clearer way.
1. Reactions have up to two parts: The Opportunity and the Situation.
This is something that is sort of covered in the rules, but is worth digging into here.
First, here are the rules for reaction Opportunities, found on pages 28 and 29 of the Beastgrave rule book. It is a few paragraphs, but is worth reading:
To sum this up, all reactions have an opportunity, which is also frequently called a "window" and can be thought of as the "point in time" the reaction takes place. If two reactions would happen at the same time, you have to pick one, and one player will always have priority.
Something the rule book does not cover in depth but is often confusing is that some reactions have the same window but will have different "situations" or conditions that need to be met in order to play them. These conditions are not telling you when to react, they are telling you what kind of situations you can react to. The differences, for example, the below reactions would all have the same reaction opportunity (after an Attack action) but work in very different situations:
Reaction: Play this after a friendly fighter's Attack action.
Reaction: Play this after a friendly fighter's Attack action that fails.
Reaction: Play this after a friendly fighter's successful Attack action.
Reaction: Play this after a friendly fighter's Attack action that takes an enemy fighter out of action.
These situations dictate what sort of game events you can react to, but do not directly effect what the opportunity for the reaction is. This is the reason for the answer to this FAQ entry:
Here are some examples of reaction cards with different reaction windows and situations:
Grievous Riposte is an example of a reaction with the "After an Attack action" reaction opportunity. Any other card in the game that reacts after an Attack action shares the same reaction opportunity with this card, including those that happen in response to a particular player's Attack action (such as "After an enemy fighter's Attack action" or "After a friendly fighter's Attack Action") or reactions that have different conditions but the same opportunity ("After an Attack action that fails," "After an Attack action that takes an enemy fighter out of action" and and so on). If the opportunity is after any kind of Attack action, it is the same opportunity.
Note: The same goes for reactions to Move actions, in that all "After a Move action" reactions would share the same window. I do not think there are any "after a Guard action" cards, but if there were, that would be the same. I also do not think there are any "after Charge action" reactions, but if there were, they would actually share the same window as an Attack action reaction, since the charge action ends with the Attack action.
Potion of Rage is an example of a reaction that takes place during an Attack action.
What can be confusing about these kinds of cards is that Attack actions have a number of steps, and each step is a new opportunity where cards can react. So the window is not simply during the Attack action, it is during a certain point in the Attack action steps.
Here are the Attack action steps:
Any part of this sequence from step 1 to step 7 could be a reaction opportunity, and unless they are exactly the same, they will not block each other.
In Potion of Rage's case, its reaction window is "before any dice are rolled" meaning it would take place before step 2 of the Combat Sequence. This would not be blocked by Snare (Reaction: Play this during a friendly Hunter's Attack action, after it drives back an enemy fighter....), because Snare reacts after step 7 of the Combat Sequence, so you could play both of these cards during the same Attack action.
It would be blocked by Arrow Snare (Reaction: Play this during an enemy fighter's Attack action with a Range of 3 or more that targets a friendly fighter, before the attack roll...) and Aggressive Defence (Reaction: Play this during an Attack action that targets a friendly fighter, before the attack roll), since all three cards take place before the dice are rolled in step 2 of the Combat Sequence.
Newer cards are getting better at making the reaction windows and situations clear, but some of the older cards can be more confusing. However, for many of these older cards, the reaction's situation (what has to happen in order to play it) will give clues to its opportunity (the exact time the reaction happens). For example, look at the Shadespire card Trap and the Beastgrave card Snare:
Trap: Reaction: Play this during a friendly fighter's Attack action that drives an enemy fighter back. The enemy fighter suffers 1 damage.
Snare: Reaction: Play this during a friendly Hunter's Attack action, after it drives back an enemy fighter. The enemy fighter is dealt 1 damage.
These cards are effectively the same, with the exception of Snare requiring that the fighter be a hunter. Snare is very clear that the reaction takes place during the Attack action, after the drive back step (step 7). Trap is less clear, as it just says the Attack action has to drive the fighter back but does not tell you when to react other than "During a friendly fighter's Attack action." However, because reactions happen immediately when the situation is met, you can deduce that it would have to take place as soon as the drive back happens, and that you would have to play it right after step 7 of the Combat Sequence.
To make things a little more complicated, we will throw in the card Mirror Move, which says:
Reaction: Play this after an opponent pushes a fighter. Choose a different fighter and push them the same number of hexes.
Mirror Move is interesting because it can react to any push your opponent makes, and pushes can take place at many different points in the game. This means that the Mirror Move reaction can take place during a number of different reaction windows, as long as a push just happened.
Because a drive back during an Attack action is a push, when an enemy fighter pushes one of your fighters with an Attack action, Mirror Move can be played. When it is played in this way, the situation is "when an opponent pushes a fighter" but the opportunity is actually the same as Snare and Trap, right after the drive back step of the Combat Sequence.
This is why they said this in the FAQ:
Hopefully that was clear, and you now understand the difference between a reaction's opportunity and the situation.
2. After the Last Action and After the Activation Confusion
The next commonly confused issue regarding reactions is a very interesting ruling made in one of the Nightvault FAQs and later incorporated into the Beastgrave Rule-book:
This is a very strange ruling with a number of implications, most notably that any reactions that take place at the end of an activation (Snirk's reaction, Thundrick's reaction, Snarlfang Jaws reactions, etc) can block or be blocked not only by one another, but by cards that are reacting to the last action in an activation such as:
Using Snirk's inspire reaction to block the enemy's Pit Trap (Reaction: Play this after an Attack action that drives an enemy fighter back. They suffer 1 damage) or Snarlfang Jaws Attack action reaction.
Having to choose between playing Pit Trap and making a Snarlfang Jaws reaction.
Being unable to use Snirk's reaction to inspire him if you react to a Move action (that is not a part of a Charge action) with scurry.
The Grymwatch's Drawn to Weakness upgrade card (Reaction: After an activation, push this fighter 1 hex towards an enemy fighter that has one or more wound tokens. Restricted: Duke's Harriers) making the Snarlfang Jaws reaction impossible.
It is also important to note that if an ability reacts to an action that is not the last action of an activation (such as a Move in a Charge action), this is a different window and will not block or be blocked by the after an activation reaction. For example, Inspired Stabbit can use his scything Attack action, use Pit Trap on the target of the first Attack action, and then react with the Snarlfang Jaws after the second Attack action, but could not both play Pit Trap and react with the Snarlfang Jaws reaction after the second Attack action.
This interaction is very important to be aware of, as it can be very un-intuitive at times, and can mess up potential combos you or your opponent might be trying to pull off. Snirk is very powerful at this, though he can only do it once per game, and the Snarlfang's are very vulnerable to it, since they like to have frequent reactions after their activations.
3. The "After an Activation" Sequence of Events
The FAQs recently cleared a number of questions about exactly what order things happen in after an Attack action:
What this means is, the following things happen in the below order:
A player starts an activation. This will usually be an action or superaction, but can also be drawing a card or simply passing. Any number of reactions can take place during this activation as long as they share separate reaction opportunities, and "after Attack action" or "After Move action" reactions can take place if they are reaction to the non-final action in a super action (Charges, Scything Attack actions, etc).
The activation ends, and any fighters that met their inspire conditions because of an event during the activation now inspire. This can be important for some warbands, as they will sometimes have reactions they want to play after their activation, and they will now be inspired when they do so (such as Lady Harrows and the card Echoing Spite, which will allow a fighter that was not inspired to charge through an enemy fighter, fail, inspire, and react to Attack again with their inspired profile, or Ironskull's Boyz, who cannot charge through a lethal hex and inspire mid charge, but can Move through one and play Kunnin' But Brutal to make an inspired Attack action). Note that Thorns of the Briar Queen do still inspire at the start of the activation since their inspire is not the result of an in game event like an action or gambit.
Once inspiration is done, any reactions that are reacting to the activation itself (Snirk inspire reaction, Snarlfang's Jaws, etc) or to the last action in that activation (usually an "After Attack action" or "After a Move action" reaction) take place now, but only one of them can take place. Reactions to that reaction (such as playing Pit trap after a successful Snarlfang Jaws Attack action that drives back) work just fine, however, as do any reactions to those reactions, and so on.
Once all of the reactions are completed, anything that happens "after the Attack action" takes place. As far as I know at the moment, this just means the Attack action from the card Aggressive Defence, which itself is not a reaction (you play the card as a reaction, but the Attack action simply happens after the initial Attack action is completed).
Once this is done, any Surge objectives that were completed during the activation are scored. At the same time, any Surge objectives that tell you to "Score this immediately after an activation if..." are now scored as well (more on these later).
Once scoring is done, and new objective cards are drawn, the power step begins.
Here is a simplified diagram of these steps:
4. Score This immediately After An Activation If...
A number of new cards starting with the Power Unbound expansion brought a completely new kind of card into the game. These cards say: "Score this immediately after an activation if..." and then go on to explain a situation that must be met in order to score the card.
Here are some examples of these kinds of cards:
Frozen in Place: Surge: Score this immediately after an activation if one or more enemy fighters each have one or more Guard tokens.
Scrum: Surge: Score this immediately after an activation if four or more fighters on the battlefield are in a single group in which each fighter is adjacent to at least one other fighter in that group.
Temporary Victory: Surge: Score this immediately after an activation if your warband holds three or more objectives.
Focal Formation: Score this immediately if a friendly Rastus and a friendly Ammis are both holding objectives after an activation. (You might notice this one is worded slightly differently--I think the below FAQ means that this card words the same as the others, though it might need another FAQ to be sure about the Power Unbound cards lol...)
The FAQ explains when to score these cards, and importantly, when to check if their conditions were met:
However, it also says:
This might be confusing at first, but I think it actually makes sense if you think about how objectives work in the game.
To start, all objectives do two things. First, they tell you when to score it. Then, they give you the condition that has to be met in order to do so. This is a lot like how the reactions work, with an opportunity and situation.
By default, most objectives are scored in the end phase, which is a particular time for scoring objectives. The only kind that are not are called Surges, and have additional rules.
Most Surges simply say to score them immediately when their conditions were met, though FAQs have since clarified that scoring does not happen during actions, superactions, or activations, and told us exactly the order this happens as explained above.
Power Unbound introduced a new kind of objective card that is a kind of Surge (so you can score it outside of the end phase) but also has a particular time during the round that you are able to score it: After an activation.
So, when a card like Swift Capture says something like:
Surge, Dual: Score this immediately after an activation If: Your warband holds one or more objectives in friendly territory And: Your warband holds one or more objectives in enemy territory.
The way to think of it is like a mini end phase after the activation, something like: "After an activation when it is time to score Surges, check to see if this condition is met, and if it is, score this card."
What it is not saying is: "If you met this condition during the previous activation (whether you do now or not), score this card."
This means that cards like Double Time and Duelist's Speed can help position your fighters after an activation but before it is time to score these cards and still have it count when it is time to check and score the cards, and cards like Mirror Move can disrupt the final positioning (by reacting to a drive back or push action during the activation, or to a push reaction after it).
It is very important to be aware of this, as it can be an important part of your game-plan and counter-play against the opponent.
Hopefully this was helpful, as i think all of these interactions can be very confusing, but do have correct answers that make some sense once you understand them :-)
If you do have questions, let me know. I believe everything mentioned above is correct per the rules, but if I missed something, let me know and I will fix it.
Also, a special thanks to Matt for taking a look at the article for me to make sure it made sense, lol.