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We had an interesting situation come up wherein a unit of mine failed their rally test and the closest table edge was exactly on the opposite side of a large regimen. The other player insisted that RAW my unit fled through his and was destroyed. I maintained that because I'm not charging I can't approach within an inch of him and as such the "length" to the edge of the table was the shortest legal route around him using the 1 inch away rule.
Your friend was right, if you flee "into" an enemy regiment of US 5 or greater then your unit is destroyed. The 1" rule doesn't apply here,
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I agree. Unfortunately, your unit is dead.
I am right 94% of the time, why worry about the other 3%.
I just have a hard time accepting that a broken unit that fails its rally test at the start of its turn willingly runs headlong to its death through another unit. It seems patently ludicrous.
Think of it as blind panic, if you have to justify it fluffily. Or just think of it as the rules, which sometimes don't always make real world sense.