Tuesday, 2 May 2017

8th edition - released rules information


Greetings all,
here we go again - more updates on the snippets of rules released, today I look at the last 4 - Movement, Psychic, Shooting, Charging and Fighting.

Movement

So, we've all known for a while now that we were going to be getting a movement value rolled into the game for individual units, but this post gives us a lot more information than we previously had to work with.

First up, we get clear confirmation that different infantry types will have different movement values, and that there will even be variety between units within a faction (we had already seen this with the unit profiles for tactical and terminator squads, but more confirmation is always good).

What we also see this time however, is that this movement stat will be specific to all units, so tanks, monstrous creatures, flyers etc will all get unique movement values. This means that Flyers will vary according to their role, so for example I'd expect the Stormhawk Interceptor to have a significantly higher movement value than the Storm Talon. Equally, we get confirmation that some units (flyers are specifically mentioned) will have minimum move values, and again these will be specific to their own characteristics.

All good stuff, it finally puts paid to guardsmen legging it across the battlefield at the same speed as marines, or eldar, and bringing movement values specific to units will also allow for differences to be shown, so I'd expect for example blood angels overcharged vehicles to move further than other rhinos etc. The generic movement values of 3rd-7th were definitely something that was needed at the time, but I think the different move speeds and numbers of weapons that could be fired was just beginning to confuse people. To this day I'm still not sure whether combat speed or cruising speed is the faster one, though I do know the different effects they have on vehicles.

The next element is that 'running' as a separate endeavour has disappeared, and the faster pace is now rolled into the movement phase, meaning you add D6 to your movement rather than doing it all separately. Practically I don't think this is too much of a change, as most players I know would tend to do this anyway where they knew they were going to run with a unit, but it does throw an additional tactical decision down onto players, as by 'advancing' you forego the ability to shoot in the following phase. No more waiting to see if one unit destroys a target before deciding whether to run with the other, it's all declared and done before anything shoots.

And then we get the real bombshell. Hit and Run as we know it is no longer a thing. Or more precisely, it just got given to everybody. At the start of your turn, if you're in combat then you can simply move away. It's not necessarily that simple of course, since doing so prevents you from 'advancing', shooting, or charging, so whilst you might be disengaged, you're still pretty vulnerable, however it does open up the intriguing prospect of using screening units to protect your heavy firepower models, breaking from combat to allow shooting instead of being hampered and frustrated as your opponent breaks your unit in your turn and then charges you in their next.

I think we may quite possibly see a desire for armies to include such speedbump units, though as the article points out, you will also no longer be able to tie up nasty combat units with something resilient (like Nurgle Obliterators).

As for other things that didn't get covered, we haven't seen any explanation of how equipment like jump packs affects movement. It's easy enough if the model comes with them and has to take them, but will we see units like space marine assault squads no longer have an option for removing jump packs? Or will the jump pack double movement values for example? Alternatively, we could simply see jump packs allow a unit to charge after advancing, there are plenty of options here so I'm excited to see what they rule in that regard.

Psychic

Big changes here, and ones that bear a lot of influence from Age of Sigmar from what I can tell.

It sounds nice and simple too - the datasheets tell you how many psychic powers each psyker can cast, and it's just a 2D6 roll that needs to beat the casting value. This can then be denied by other psykers within 24", who will be able to make a certain number of block attempts each turn also. 

First off then, this mechanic is almost identical to AoS - it means no sneaky psyker batteries allowing you to throw lots of dice at a nasty power and effectively prevent it from being stopped - one of my big issues with the last iteration of the psychic phase was that if a caster threw enough dice at a power, then opponents effectively had no chance to stop it - now it's entirely dependent on the roll the caster actually makes.

There're a few interesting points for thought here.
1. will there be a generic list of powers or will psychic powers be specific to factions with only the smite power being known by all? This would be my preference I think, allowing very different flavours of power to be available to the different factions. Hopefully my 6 marine librarians won't become worthless!

2. will there be a limit on casting specific powers? The AoS general's handbook limits each power to only being cast once per turn in matched play (rather than once per psyker per turn) so there would be no benefit to spamming psykers in the hopes of casting multiple instances of smite for example. I really hope this is the case, since otherwise that one power could put paid to many heroes in the game!

3. Will psykers be allocated specific powers as they are in AoS, or will there be a faction list, and if the latter, will they be random? Personally I hope that there will be a list of available powers and that these can be chosen, as it would potentially allow a psyker to be tailored to a role, which they currently cannot. Such an approach would need to have been carefully tested though, to avoid exploitation, but by the same rule, they appear to have taken such exploitation very seriously in developing this edition so I'm willing to put my faith in them.

Shooting

Not a huge amount of change here, but some significant ones nonetheless.

Pistols can shoot whilst in combat! That's an interesting development, and one that is already causing debate around the world, since later in the article it's confirmed that you can't shoot into combat. I'm firmly in the camp that the released information is insufficient to confirm whether or not this means you can shoot pistols at an enemy you're engaged with, or if you can shoot a nearby unit. If it's the first then plasma pistols et al finally got some value, if it's the latter then it probably pretty situational given the short range of these weapon types.

Moving also now simply imposes a -1 to hit on heavy weapons, including those of vehicles. Now again I've seen lots of people disliking this change, but for me I'm happy with it, and I think it makes sense. Regardless of how a vehicle's systems might make it more reliable to shoot on the move, it's still going to be harder than if that vehicle isn't bouncing across the rubbled landscape of a ruined world. -1 to hit? Fine by me, especially if it means that shooting from vehicles isn't restricted in any other way, and it's a very simple streamlining of the system so all models work the same.

Finally we have details of how cover affects shooting, it's a bonus to your armour save (presumably different depending on the type of cover). I really like the idea of this, as it represents an augmentation of the potential for you to save damage. Think for example of a bolter shot through a lightweight building partition. Passing through it will reduce the shot's power, but could still result in a kill if it impacts on the right area (assuming the wall doesn't detonate the mass reactive head of course). Interestingly, they've specified that some weapons will ignore this cover bonus, but they haven't namechecked the flamer as one of those weapons, and there was no indication of it during the weapon profile release - was that profile doctored specifically for that update or do flamers no longer ignore cover? I for one would welcome fewer weapons ignoring cover in the game, there are some factions and strategies that rely heavily on it and it was extremely frustrating to have it ignored by much of an opposing army (back when I played DE, one of my regular opponents was Salamanders - they were not fun games much of the time).

Charging

And finally for this update, we have the charge phase. Honestly there's very little change here, which I find a little saddening to be honest, as it's one of the most frustrating parts of the current edition. Charging is still 2D6", but now you effectively get a 1" bonus since you don't have to get into base contact. Personally I would have loved to see charge distance become D6"+movement value, it would have meant faster units could charge further and would also give a little more reliability to range estimation. I can't count how many times I've seen units 'charging headlong' only 3" or less when their normal move rate was twice that.

Interestingly though, there's an option for defensive units to make charging more difficult, as you cannot move within 1" of a unit you didn't declare as the target of a charge. Squeezing units close to each other (guard squads in rank and file) will mean that you limit the frontage your opponent can contact with unless they want to multi-charge, and that means the potential of more than one unit firing overwatch at you (actually, this is further amended by the info on the fighting phase - see next). Interestingly, they've also now increased the options for overwatch, so a unit can fire it multiple times per phase provided they're not locked in combat. 

I've seen plenty of whingeing already that these changes give lots of advantages to shooty armies over combat ones (and that's not wrong, not being able to lock units into combats or potentially shooting multiple overwatch is only a benefit to a shooty army) however I've not often had overwatch achieve a huge amount in my games, and as we are yet to see what happens with combat, it's just too early to jump on the grumblewagon to my mind.

Fighting

So, hot off the press today we also see some information on the fight phase, and this has undergone quite significant changes.

As was previously hinted, charging units fight first, across the whole board, and it seems this is irrespective of weapon type (it's not mentioned that weapons such as a powerfist wouldn't strike first). The reason given is that these units have made it across the tabletop, braving shooting phases and overwatch and so have earned the right to hit first - fair enough I guess. That's not quite the end of ti though, since there will be other ways of getting to strike outside of the normal sequence, some are datasheet dependent, and others relate to weapon types or stratagems.

Piling in remains 3" and is done when you activate a unit to fight, but importantly this move can now be used to engage other units you didn't charge directly (see italic section in the charging phase).

After chargers strike, the system reverts to the AoS method, whereby players take it in turns to activate units they wish to fight next, so it becomes very tactical in this phase - do you strike first with a particular unit that might be fragile, or do you look to cripple an enemy unit that is capable of dealing out a lot of hurt.

Fixed rolls to hit are in, so dedicated combat units will hit on 3's, whilst a limited few will get to hit on 2's (finally!). Personally I think this is a backward step, I liked the opposing method of weapon skill in previous editions, though I didn't like the fact 2+ to hit wasn't possible. I'm sure I'll get used to this method though, and it's unlikely to be a significant change, it probably just increases the amount of damage done a bit and makes combat performance more reliable and accountable in strategy terms. I'd expect WS4 in old money to see the most difference - there were quite a few units at this level before and they will now hit equivalent units on 3+ (most likely) rather than 4+. Of course, it's possible now that some units will drop down the pecking order a bit, we've seen that marines will get 3+ to hit, but that's no guarantee that all WS4 models in the old system will get the same treatment (I'm thinking Guardians perhaps).

We don't see too much on combat weapons, though we are promised a look at those too in the future, with a tidbit that some will cut through armour easily, whilst others will hit with enough force to do multiple wounds. As expected I think, we'll see things like power swords working to cut the chaff down in droves (chainswords had better get some kind of AP) whilst power fists may possibly limit attacks but will likely deal lots of wounds per hit.

As the release states, co-coordinating a battlefield-wide charge with all your units striking first could be devastating, whilst things will remain tactical enough that there will be tricky decisions to take over which units to activate and when.

Conclusions

I can honestly say that these changes have me looking forward with nothing but optimism to the new edition. We continue to see some of the really smooth mechanics from AoS being adopted into the new rules, but importantly, this is no simple copy/paste exercise. Shooting weapons are far more important in 40k, and so shooting from combat has been limited to pistols, which are less common and less effective, Denial of psychic powers uses the same mechanic as AoS, but range of the ability has been increased. Equally, with shooting being more significant across the board, the dedicated assault units have picked up a boost in the combat phase to ensure they remain relevant, and by forcing defensive units to separate on the field, close support for some armies can become a problem (Tau supporting fire now has the potential to result in multiple units being dragged into combats they really don't want to be involved in).

All this stuff makes me really confident that the guys writing the rules have really thought about them, and have listened to feedback they've had from the playtesters. 

Sure, there are still things we don't know and may not have been explained 100% clearly yet, but these snippets are just that, and so far, I'm exceedingly happy with what I'm hearing.

Next time I think we will be looking at morale, though I might just slip a hobby post in there somewhere!
TBE