Reflections on 6th Edition

It may surprise some to read that I won’t be doing a full review of 6th edition Warhammer 40,000. There’s two reasons for this.

1. There’s been no shortage of full reviews

2. I’ve been playing 40k for over 20 years and I honestly can’t be bothered.Plus the rules are established well enough that seasoned gamers will know the basics and my embittered ramblings are not for the novice.

Instead what I’d rather is focus on some of the big changes in the game and what it’ll mean to the average gamer. I have every confidence that they’ll be wildly unpopular but that’s never stopped me before…

At its heart, 40k is still the same game it’s been since 3rd edition. Everything still moves a base of 6 inches. Ranged weapons still have AP and power fists are still the proverbial two-edged sword.

One of the biggest changes is Snap Fire. This rule essentially allows you (amongst other things) to more and fire heavy weapons at greatly reduced effectiveness. Any model wishing to Snap Fire does so at BS1. This rule is both good and utterly poo pants.

It’s good because it allows a flexibility that’s never been seen before and will be a huge boon to armies like the Guard. However, what’s utterly poo pants is that this rule applies to not only moving and firing heavy weapons, but Overwatch (yes it’s back) and moving and firing vehicles. It’s poo pants because of this simple logic:

A Space Marine is 16 points. Those 16 points because they have the finest training, powered armour with built-in gyroscopic stabilizers, synced targeting and bullets that explode. They get a BS 4 because they are the very finest soldiers, trained to fit in the very worst circumstances imaginable.

An Ork is 6 points which is actually a frigging steal when you consider how good they are in combat. But that aside they only have a BS of 2 because they’re a disorganised rabble that bludgeon their way through war. There is no training, no ability and their equipment only works because they believe it to.

Yet, somehow, when it comes to shooting at an enemy trying to attack them the super trained super soldiers that are utterly super are just as useless as a near feral beast or a barely trained conscripted guardsman. Which is utter madness.

Sadly the same rule applies to vehicles. Again, a Land Raider, which costs me 250 points and is loaded with the finest technology the Imperium can muster complete with artificial intelligence, targeting systems. Yet if it moves it has the same effectiveness as a vehicle held together by spit and good wishes which cost a fraction of the price.

I understand where the developers were coming from but the rule simply doesn’t reflect the relative abilities of the armies. By going for a catch-all rule they’re arguably treating all the armies fairly but surely a flat-1 or -2 to BS would be slightly fairer? Perhaps in the new wave of Codices for Space Marines of all stripes will get an exemption from the rule but then it begs the question; why bother in the first place?

I had this debate in my local GW with one of its managers and in the end he had to concede the point when he uttered the sentence (and he’s remarkably perceptive when it comes to rules on the whole); ‘the way to win 40k is to armour save your opponent into submission’. Which highlights the biggest issue with 6th Edition. It’s Hordehammer 40,000. The more blokes on the board the more models you have to Overwatch with, which means a higher percentage will hit which means fewer models attacking making your numbers advantage greater. Cheaper/Horde armies can field more vehicles which means being able to move more blokes but also, again, have a greater number of heavy weapons they can use.

In previous editions the greater numbers was offset by the lower stats but this universal levelling of the playing field overwhelmingly benefits those horde armies.

The other poison pill is Hull Points. At first glance this increase the life expectancy of vehicles but it doesn’t for the simple fact that all you need to do is glance a vehicle to strip off a hull point. This makes lower powered weapons far more powerful. In 5th Edition a glancing hit could, at best, immobilise a vehicle. This was a 1/36 chance (a roll of a 6 followed by a roll of a 6). Now, although you’re not inflicting additional damage, you have a 1/6 chance of removing a hull point.

Again this seems a conscious move towards infantry armies over mechanised forces although I fully appreciate that something needed to be done to prevent armies from being overpowered. I’m just not sure this is the best way. It means that Dreadnoughts have gone from being the best 115 points you’ll ever spend to 115 points you’ll be lucky to make back before it’s glanced to death seeing as a jammy roll from an Assault Cannon will do it in a single turn.

On the up side, they’ve tweaked the rules for disembarking units from vehicles so they can move 6 inches and shoot normally. This is a massive and very worthwhile change. Units will no longer be the sitting ducks they use to be and anything with assault ramps is even more hench than they were before. Assuming they don’t get glanced to death.

Which brings me smoothly on to combat. The first big change is they’re brought it in line with Warhammer Fantasy. Charge range is now 2D6. As the average on 2D6 is 7 this will, on average, be an advantage but obviously represents the cruelties of fate. To be honest I don’t have an opinion on this one way or the other as assault phases are going to become far messier with Overwatch. Smaller tweaks like the rules to jump packs are actually pretty cool though. Either you can opt to move 12inches and then assault as normal or move 6 but you get to reroll your assault roll and you get a free slap. Which is pretty ace.

They’ve generally tidied up the assault rules and finally got what the hell you’re supposed to do afterwards all straightened out. Which is nice. The biggest thing about it though is the introduction of AP for close combat weapons. This is a good thing for two reasons. It means that terminators are no much harder than they use to be as power swords are now only AP3. Although power axes are AP2 and +1 strength but are initiative 1. Which means if you got up against a terminator you’re likely to be on the losing side simply because the odds of them caving in your skull is far greater.

Although I welcome this change whole heartedly as the distinctions were desperately needed to make 250 point units of terminators actually bastard worth it but I can see some very frustrated gamers having to chop up their models because they’ve not got the right kit any more. It’ll certainly make the existing Vanguard Veteran models a tough more vulnerable.

Another new rule is the ability to issue challenges between characters, ala WHFB. It will, in theory, prevent characters from tearing apart units whilst ignoring one another but at the same time will stop characters from tearing up units.

Other big deals include Psykers finally getting the attention they deserved and a truly biblical amount of detail around the gaming scape. The former I don’t really care about because I hate using ‘magic’ in games. It’s the same reason I only really like Iron Man and Batman. I hate ‘super powers’ being the thing that saves the day. I prefer my awesome to be backed up by intelligence and a boat load of cool tech. From what I’ve skimmed through, however, the rules are akin to how they use to be in 2nd edition with disciplines like in WHFB which makes it far closer to the fiction and means that players will actually want to take Librarians. Except for me. Because I’m miserable.

As I mentioned there is a lot of stuff about the gaming board including the types of structures you can take as well as upgrades and even points values for taking specific structures such as the Fortress of Redemption. It’s a little bit of overkill in some ways as there are loads to read and as it doesn’t directly relate to the manging of people’s faces I got bored. However, what it does mean is that you have rules available to use in your own scenarios rather than trying to come up with some balanced rules for a critical structure. This is a very good thing.

I’m not entirely sure how often I’ll spend points on buildings that could be spent on bombs and bullets but I suppose the option is there. And I am coming at it from the lofty point of view of someone with no shortage of units to choose from. But I guess it’s nice to have the option.

Which brings me neatly on to the final change which is Allies. I have nothing against taking allies. It makes complete sense to take allies. I’m not too convinced on some of the options but I can only assume that as codices are rewritten and fluff moved along those allegiances will become apparent. The good thing is the limitations imposed as it does stop armies from taking all the good shit from other armies. Something an old neighbour use to do back in the dark days of 2nd Edition in which he’d take a Space Marine army supported exclusively by Leman Russ and Demolishers. Because he was a wanker.

This may seem like 1700 words of moaning, and I suppose it is but there are some pretty drastic changes in reaction to, I suspect, certain members of the design studio pissing on about how hard Space Marines are. When they’re not. It reminds me of 3rd Edition and the dramatic change the game went through then and how almost, over night, Imperial Guard became fucking useless, and the subsequent editions reigning in some of those changes. At present with the majority of codices written for 5th Edition the game feels not only biased towards horde armies but simultaneously encourages and punishes you for wanting to assault, move your tanks, or want to take tanks at all.

The changes to the assault rules – specifically the introduction of AP for close combat weapons – is one of the best decisions they’ve made. It not only changes the face of combat but dramatically improves the performance of certain units. Overwatch makes sense, Snap Fire is poo. Vehicles are squishy. And because of all those changes Eldar are going to get utterly destroyed. But for all that, at its heart it’s still the same game so, ultimately I’m still going to play it…I might just leave the Rhinos at home…

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