It is the grim dark future and there is only war. That is the message for Warhammer 40,000, and I don’t see any end to it in the latest release of the core rules, 6th edition.
Hey everyone, AgnosticGod here with an in depth look at the new rulebook for our favorite grim-dark futuristic table-top war game. Over this series of review articles I plan on covering the different sections of the new core rules by Games Workshop. Follow along as I delve into the Rules, the Background and Fighting a Battle sections in the new book.
First up let’s talk rules. Here is where the biggest changes in the game happen and GW hasn’t disappointed in this edition. Overall the game isn’t completely different like what was seen in that “leaked” edition earlier in the year. It takes most of its cues from the fifth, however, key things have changed that in my opinion make the game better. Many will argue that some of the rules are more complicated, but overall I think some of those increases in complication will actually move the game along faster as they streamline and clarify rules that were previously arguable.
More than anything, though, I think GW took a look at the rules and asked one question when looking at the new edition. That question was, “How do we make the rules tell a story?” I think this whole edition was to move the game towards a narrative. They even include regular asides about how you can better “Forge a Narrative.” When you look at the rules in light of this fact, you find that everything that has changed makes the game two things: clearer and more cinematic.
Now let’s take a look at some of the changes that exist in the sixth edition. Before I start though I would like to point out GuinnessGremlin’s review. He has done an excellent job covering some of the biggest changes in the game from a practical standpoint. While I may point out some of the same changes here, his article is just as valuable.
Here is the biggest, if not expected, change of the game in my opinion. You can now always pre-measure distance before making a decision. While many will say this slows the game down, I don’t think so. I think this will even the playing field between players who are better/worse at guessing distances, and will keep people from doing silly things with hands, tape measures and such, “secretly” trying to give them an advantage. It will also be easier for people to make better informed decisions about their strategy on the table. This makes for a better, more intense, more fun game in the long run.
Movement is another place where the game I think gets more cinematic. I can’t remember the times that I wanted my heavy weapon to sit still, but the rest of my unit to move more into cover or better surround my heavy. Well now you can. Movement is now on a model by model basis. So just declare that your heavy isn’t moving before you start moving that unit and make sure everyone is still in unit coherency when you finish, and you are free to shoot that heavy at its full potential.
Another change in movement is multiple movement rate units. In fifth the whole unit had to move at its slowest moving model’s speed. Now that odd model with a different movement rate doesn’t stop the other models from moving around them at a faster/slower one. Again just make sure that your models are all in coherency at the end of the move.
As before in the movement phase, those heavies can sit still even if the rest of the unit moved up some or into better terrain, but even if they did move you can now still at least take a shot of opportunity. In fifth I totally understood that a heavy weapon needed time to set-up, or even be braced to get the full effect, but I couldn’t help but feel that it could at least lob some shots off at the enemy when it moved if even just for the slight chance they hit.
Sixth edition now has Snap Shot. This does exactly that, it allows a weapon that wouldn’t normally get a shot off to at least attempt a shot, if even at a worse Ballistic Skill. Some weapons of course still can’t do this, such as any weapon that has a blast, large blast or template. This one rule is probably one of the most used new rules throughout the book. Where in fifth if an event would have made it harder to shoot they would have not allowed a shot, now those same events let you only make Snap Shots.
Here is where I believe the most clarification/game balancing and the best cinematic change has taken place. Old wound allocation rules were a bit clunky and way to abstract. They allowed for un-realistic reactions to the effects of shooting, close combat and other events that took out models.
The new wound allocation rules now do a much better job of realistically taking out your models and stopping some of the un-realistic shenanigans that some of the units in the game allowed. I’m looking at you GK Paladins and Ork Nob Bikers.
By making the closest models take the brunt of the wounds first, it makes the moving of your models more realistic (I.E. More valuable men will be protected in the middle), and it will affect your close combat strategies more realistically as well.
Now I am not thick enough not to see that the emphasis has now moved from close combat to shooting. With shooting armies ability to peel off the front ranks of enemy units as they charge in, it becomes harder to just run your guys across the field to get them stuck in. But from a narrative stand-point, it just makes better sense.
Out of Sight
Ever have four of your guys standing behind a wall out of sight and a fifth heavy standing out clear to take his shot, only to have the entire unit wiped out by a solid round of shooting from a unit that can only see the heavy? Well say good-bye to fifth edition.
Out of Sight is another new rule that adds to the realism and narrative of your battles. I have always thought it un-realistic for a single guy standing in line of sight to be the reason that a whole unit gets decimated. Sixth introduces us to the idea that only models that can actually be seen by the shooting unit can actually be killed, no matter how many extra wounds the firing unit caused.
Look Out, Sir!
Right in line with the new wound allocation rules comes this Warhammer Fantasy inspired rule. Whether a loyal underling or a “volunteer” meat-shield, characters (which sergeants and other upgrade models are now also) can now be saved from those stray shots or close combat attacks.
Fifth edition’s universal 4+ cover save made it easy to get decent cover coming across the field. Sixth edition, while not really reducing the availability of cover, does at least make it a little bit more realistic and clarify how much cover different terrain gives. Also, while vehicles have now been granted easier access to get cover saves, due to other vehicle rule changes this really just offsets how much easier it is to deal with vehicles as we will cover in a later article.
Focus Fire is the largest change in cover saves. Fifth basically said that if at least half the unit had a cover save then everyone had it. Sixth once again took the more realistic route in enhancing the narrative nature of focusing on only units with less cover. Now you can specify that of the unit that you can actually see, you are only focusing your fire on models with only a certain cover save or less.
Example: A blob of Imperial Guardsmen are shooting at a ten man unit of Ork Boyz. Three of the Boyz are not visible and are safe automatically. Another three are behind a fortification giving them a 3+ cover save. The last four are out in the open or behind razor-wire only granting them at best a 6+ cover save. The guardsmen opt to Focus Fire on only the four unfortunate Boyz with only a 6+ save or worse, giving them a much better chance of taking them out.
Several big changes have made their way into the new edition in the assault phase, the first being Charge Distance. Now units do not charge a set distance, but instead roll to see how far they will charge. While this does add some randomness to the game, I don’t think this breaks anything to0 much. From a statistical point of view now units have an average charge range farther than they did before, it just isn’t guaranteed like in fifth edition.
Another addition is the Overwatch rule. Again looking from a narrative point of view, a charged unit now has the opportunity to get off a few shots to try and soften up an assaulting unit before it gets there. In fact, if they get lucky they might actually cause the unit to fail its charge if they peel off enough of the front guys before they roll.
Finally the pile-in rules now make it almost impossible for a unit to not get a majority of it’s guys into combat. The new front models first wound allocation rules applying to close combat too having the models pile-in at each initiative step makes sure that models further back get into combat as their brethren fall in front. This also means that most of the time you random charge range is really going to include an additional 3” of movement after you succeed in the charge. Follow this with the end of combat 3” pile-in and you are guaranteed everyone will be in it to win it by the second turn of combat most of the time.
Sixth edition morale now allows for a chance to regroup no matter what. No more below 50% running off the board without a chance to rally and no longer does it matter if an enemy is within 6”. Now if you have at least 25% of the original unit you make a test on your highest leadership, and if you are below that then you have to roll Insane Heroism, but you always get a chance no matter what. In fact if you are below 25% and an enemy charges, you get to test normally. If you fail your dead though, so it isn’t all rosy.
Okay that is enough of an essay from me for one post. Keep a look out for part two of my review series where I will finish out the rest of the rules section changes, followed by my review of the fluff and the “Fighting a Battle” sections of the book too.
Happy Gaming. AG, out.