My gripes about 6th edition
I liked 6th edition ever since it came out. I liked 5th better than 4th and I like 6th better than 5th: I keep seeing improvements, even in codex balance (some glaringly and painfully notable exceptions aside, but you can't have it all can you?) and I'm certainly glad as all hell that mech isn't an almighty unstoppable force any longer, with the only counter being more mech and the meta being so bad the only special weapon worth taking is the meltagun, making special weapon options "the melta option", which is mandatory.
Still, to put it kindly, they fucked up on the basics. I'll separate my three main gripes into chapters for the ease of reading. I must also warn you that I'm going to rant quite a bit so if this sort of thing irritates you please forgive me.
I just want to kill that guy
Now, the old Torrent of Fire rules sucked, right? It was practically impossible to kill the exact model with that stupid weapon that could just wail on you all the time and you couldn't do anything about it, right? Fortunately 6th edition added precision shots, and thanks to the focus on characters you're guaranteed to have something capable of precision shots in nearly any unit to help you take out those pesky models that were otherwise untouchable before their screen of goons.
But no, it wasn't enough. They had to introduce taking casualties closest from the shooter. Now, before the screaming about "realism" and "strategy" begin, allow me to state upfront why that's bullshit: first, realism goes out of the window whenever 40K is involved, because it's a wargame and therefore has a layer of abstraction for the sake of necessity even before tackling how ludicrous the setting itself is. Secondly, I'll address the issue of movement-related "strategy" in the next gripe.
While it may seem that this innovation will bring more thought into placement, unit movement and where the shooter chooses to shoot from, it actually has terrible side effects. In 5th edition, you had to distribute wounds amongst the unit hit before saving, and could only assign multiple wounds to a single model after you had ran out of models to assign wounds to; it sounds complicated but was actually quite simple: you split the amount of saves you had to take evenly across the models and then rolled them, first the grunts, then those with special weapons, then the upgraded ones and so on. You split first and then roll: no confusion, no what ifs, no interruptions, simple and clean.
In 6th edition you can't. Aside from the inevitable arguments about whether this or that model is closest and having to resort to nitpicking millimetres, the problem is that the rules tell you to roll saves separately until you hit a character or someone with a special weapon or a different save.
Of course sometimes it doesn't make a difference at all, but these are the same cases in which it didn't back in 5th or 4th or anywhere before either, so it's not an improvement. No, if you have someone with a different save or a different weapon or, god forbid, a character, you have to stop. You have to stop and roll the saves one by one. And if it's a character, you have to roll for Look out sir one save at a time.
Why? Who the hell thought this was a good idea? And don't even start with this "realism" bullshit, do you think it's unrealistic for a shot to fly past someone's head and nail the guy in the back row? Why do I have to stop the game and roll saves one by one? Isn't 40K slow enough, what with separate rolls to hit, to wound, to save, all different according to weapon and model hit and possibly some other crap? And what does this add? The off-chance that if you have superior mobility or ultra-reliable deep striking you can get a model before others?
We already had precision shots and the extra focus on characters, why was any of this necessary? 5th edition wound distribution was fine: if they just added precision shots as they are now, you'd get both the chance to remove those pesky models and to pick which one you absolutely want to die, and you could still fit in the Look out sir rule. Determining where shots come from should only be relevant against vehicles.
Moving 6 times more than everyone else is strategy!
There's a few thing I have noticed people failing or outright refusing to do when 6e came out, and the most noticeable of which was to update their gaming tables.
1d3 terrain pieces for every 2x2 section is something; had I suggested playing with that amount of terrain in 4th or 5th edition most people I know would have refused to play against me because the table was "too crowded". People were giving for granted that sitting their tanks at their edge of the table and shooting straight without moving because they were able to see the entire battlefield was the norm and how the game was supposed to be played.
After some experience I can say that if you add in plenty of terrain, especially the LoS blocking and impassable, suddenly tactics start to actually count for something in this game, which is unprecedented in my experience where list-building won battles before they were fought. The changes to vehicles and shooting also had quite an effect... Or not. Snap shots weren't exactly a revolution but they did add a certain degree of unpredictability, but what with ordnance forcing every other weapon to fire snap shots and blasts and templates being impossible to use with snap shots? Speeding through the battlefield shooting at everything with every weapon was no longer a thing.
Except for fast vehicles and skimmers. The latter more than the former, since terrain density is higher and therefore dozer blades are actually worth their price as you're much more likely to be rolling dangerous terrain than before. Being able to move 12" ignoring terrain and shoot with everything was already enough of an advantage considering the increased terrain density, right? Fuck no, let's add a portable cover save on top of it all because why the heck not? We're already pretty much ignoring terrain to our advantage already, might as well get us the advantage of terrain without actually having terrain around.
Why is this bad? Because it's a huge fuck you to all the "strategy" that's supposed to go with unit placement, terrain disposition and movement abilities: when you can say fuck you to all of the above and do as you please unpunished, you're basically playing a different game. But skimmers still aren't too bad: let's not get into the detail of how their point cost doesn't really represent the weight and importance of all the advantages they have just by virtue of being skimmers and move to the better problem: scoring.
The vast majority of scenarios have objectives. Objectives have to be claimed by a scoring unit, or can be contested by an opposing unit. Vehicles usually don't count for either, so being able to move 36" in a turn ignoring terrain completely unpunished isn't really that bad, right? Also because even if you're a transport you can't embark or disembark anything if you move more than 6", no matter how much of a fast thing you are. So problem solved, right?
No. Why? Jetbikes.
Let's do a simple experiment: take a measuring tape, stick it to 36", now put it in the middle of a standard, empty 6x4 table and spin it around. See that range? That is your movement range, that is how far you can go in one turn.
Now fill the same table with the standard amount of terrain pieces: 1d3 per 2x2 section. Now take a measuring tape, stick it to 6", and put it somewhere in the table where it doesn't touch any terrain piece in any direction. That's how far the vast majority of the units in the game can move in one turn, plus between 1 to 6 extra inches, oh and this assuming you don't touch terrain, because if you do your actual movement is between 1 to 6 inches and between 1 to 6 extra inches, so a potential of 2-12" instead of 7-12". Also see those walls, those bottomless chasms and all that impassable terrain? Have fun going around it instead of straight through.
Why is this bad? Because you win by putting a scoring unit close to an objective, and when you have scoring units that shit in the face of everything you've been trying to do to add tactics and unpredictability to the battlefield and can get anywhere you want when you want them to, you're practically cheating. I've been told that strategy is extremely important in 40K and battles are won and loss on the movement phase more than any other phase, I've been told that moving right is the sign of the true veteran, guess who always told me that? People that play the only army that has troops that move 36" in one turn ignoring all terrain whatsoever.
How about we play a game of chess where all of my pieces move like queens and can jump over other pieces and yours don't? No? You just can't deal with my strategy!
But Moku!, you're going to say, deep striking also does that! What about it, huh?
Deep striking is perfectly fine for two reasons: one, it relies on Reserve mechanics, which have actually been balanced out rather well. Deep striking is potentially very powerful but has drawbacks: you can't decide when a unit will be available, and you can't be sure it will actually go where you want it to go. You can't just keep something in reserve and decide to field it through deep strike exactly in the moment you need it the most, and that's already a very important drawback: add to this that your unit can scatter, and if it scatters where it can't be placed it will suffer an accident that will delay it by one turn at best. See how different the scenario gets with just these two details?
But Moku!, you go again, Drop pods!
Yes, drop pods and similar paraphernalia ignore most of the drawbacks that come from possibly being screwed over unfavourable scatter. Well, they just keep you safe from deep striking incidents and even then only if you don't scatter off the table, but they also ignore plenty of things from the reserve mechanics such as coming in on turn one or allowing you to keep your entire army in reserve.
While both are certainly annoying, they both have drawbacks: for one thing, if you only have half your army on the table and it doesn't do the massacre you expected it to do, it's going to have a hard time holding out until help arrives. For another thing, Interception.
The Interceptor rule allows you to target units that come from reserves, including those that deep strike. While this doesn't assure their destruction in any way, it is a counter of sort. You can do something about people suddenly appearing in your face. But what can you do about people running from wherever in the table in last turn and grabbing all the objectives or invalidating those you have? Nothing. Except for bubble wrapping around objectives, but it's still unfair because your opponent can keep the hell away from everything you have and turbo in last turn, while you're forged to slog your way to wherever you must go, 6" at a time if you don't deep strike or your vehicles were all blown up.
What makes me the most angry is that you can see the rules are there, the setup is there, the risk and benefit ratio is more or less there and the possible counters are there, but they missed one thing that fucks everything up, and guess which armies dominate the tournament scene? Guess what they have in common?
What kind of game do people play?
I first thought this was going to be flyer edition because, like everyone else, the first exposition to 6e flyers I came to deal with was the Heldrake.
Hello, I'm an AV 12 thing you can only possibly ever hit on a 6, I eat your stuff up just because I move and I put a template anywhere around me and fuck up whatever is under there that isn't a terminator, I also have an invulnerable save and can regenerate hull points and ignore the two results that might prevent me from flaming your army to ashes.
You have to admit it's difficult to not get mad at it.
(Un)Fortunately, that's as far as the Chaos codex went in the cheese department, so very few people that I know field heldrakes because, well, they just don't play Chaos marines. Because they suck. I have found both myself and other people stop worrying that much about flyers after the heldrake craze passed because the other options aren't, well, very competitive. Sure, they're annoying, but three twin-linked lascannons are a joke compared to the heldrake, and you actually have a better than awful chance at taking down a vendetta with a quad gun, assuming your army has no other way of getting the Interceptor rule and you're not lucky enough to get that random objective that gives Skyfire to the nearby unit.
It's a good thing that fortifications and allies were introduced. No, seriously, without getting into arguments about GW's update cycle, it is a matter of fact that some armies will get to six on their previous edition's ass for a while before they get the current edition's shiny new toys. Which they might as well not get. Remember the Skyfire and Interceptor options of Chaos marines and Chaos daemons? Yeah. Me neither. Fortunately allies, fortifications and other things can mitigate, or fix, this.
The problem however remains: terrain, cover and movement have been made more important so that the weight of tactical choices concerning them is much heavier than just sitting on your ass at the back of the table and laugh as your units shoot everything they see out of existence, because they can't just see everything any longer, and their heavy tanks aren't as nigh-immortal as they were in 5th, to the point Leman Russes are actually starting to disappear because they're too expensive for what they do despite their AV 14.
Except they still can. Not Leman Russes, but there's unit that can ignore all of the above, including needing LoS to shoot. And I'm not just talking about ordnance barrage (which there is very little of and it's still quite expensive and frail for 6th standards), I'm talking about Taudar as you probably already guessed. Surely this advantage of being able to flat-out ignore all of the rules and innovations that added tactics and, god forbid, thinking to the game are very expensive since they weigh so much in the actual game, right?
Fuck no, these options are cheap as all hell. Want to know what's expensive? A S5 space marine with the Daemon rule that can't shoot. On foot.
I don't get it. When this edition was designed, what did they think was going to happen on the actual tables? How could they put all that weight and importance on battlefield, random elements, random objectives, objective hunt, forging a narrative and whatnot, and then fail to realize they were keeping the option to ignore all of that and priced it way cheaper than the alternatives?
Yes, I am saying the only reason for which Taudar are supreme kings of everything is not because their units are too strong stat-wise or have too powerful weapons (though I personally would give broadsides, riptides and wave serpents a tweak or two), but because they have the ability to play dirty and ignore all of the tactical elements that every other army has to deal with the hard way, and it just happens to be what makes you win.
If, say, you add the clause that "units that turbo-boost cannot claim or contest objectives if the game ends in the player turn they did so", I'm 100% sure that all jetbikes will instantly disappear from every Taudar list. All because they have an incredible advantage which they don't pay for, and it constantly gets overlooked because, well, you're going to focus on the fact they're T4 with a 3+ save and jink, right? And Shurken weapons are annoying with their soft Rending, right? No, that's not why they're broken, it's the free 36" fuck the terrain move on troops when four out of six scenarios from the rulebook win you the game with just that, and you can tie the fifth at worst with the same tactic.
It makes me sad because I don't think you have to go on a crusade against codex creep or GW's favourites (although both exist and are a thing), you just have to make a couple apparently simple changes to a few rules in the basic rulebook and most of the issues will be solved, or at least be brought back into acceptable levels of imbalance.
6e isn't a bad ruleset: I haven't noticed anything about the supposed flyer domination craze the heldrake brought, but there's just these few things that look so stupid at first and yet, after months of occasional playing, they get so in your face they're just impossible to ignore any longer.
And sorry again for the rant.