Rule Changes in 6th Edition Warhammer 40k (Part 3: Shooting)
Welcome to part three of my rule changes in 6th edition Warhammer 40k article. If you haven't read parts one or two yet, you may want to read those first and then come back to this article once you are done. It's not necessary, but it might give a better impression of the game seeing how all the changes fit together. You can find links to parts one and two by clicking below:
- 7th Edition Warhammer 40k Rules
- Rule Changes in 6th edition Warhammer 40k (Part 1) - Pregame Setup
- Rule Changes in 6th edition Warhammer 40k (Part 2) - Movement and Mysterious Terrain
Part three (this article) is going to focus on the changes to the shooting phase of 6th edition. If you've heard any chatter about the new edition on the Internet, you will likely have heard that 6th edition has rebalanced things back towards shooting. Only several weeks of gaming will really tell the whole picture, but I will say that there are many new rules that favor shooting above assault. Let's dive in and see what I'm talking about!
The Shooting Phase
First, here is an important change that players have been clamoring for since 4th edition: Pre-measuring is now in! Yes, you may now pre-measure anything you want at any time. No more guessing how many inches away an enemy is or measuring out a potential move before you make it. I love this!
Some veteran players think that pre-measuring is horrible; that a skilled player should know what 12" or 24" looks like on the table. They feel that giving players the ability to measure whenever they like (before selecting targets, etc) is taking some of the strategy away from the game.
I 100% disagree. Players who feel this way (and that is their right) have obviously developed a high spacial awareness. This is the personal ability to feel comfortable with two and three dimensional space, placing objects in space, seeing angles of relationships, and even measuring distance by sight. Anyone playing video games over the last 20 years probably has more practice at this because games take place in a virtual space where the characters interact with other objects in that environment. Ever see someone who could never make that Mario jump, no matter how hard they tried? Yep, that's hand-eye coordination AND spatial awareness.
Warhammer 40k is a game about probabilities and statistics. How well a person can visually measure linear distances should not detract from their ability to built good army lists, position units tactically, and then play the probabilities to create good match-ups on the battlefield.
Alright, enough of me ranting about pre-measuring. I love it and I hope everyone else can get used to it!
Moving on . . . the next biggest change is the inclusion of Snap Fire! This new rules allows models that normally couldn't shoot the ability to do so at a reduced chance of hitting. This normally applies to Heavy Weapons.
In older editions of 40k, models with Heavy Weapons that moved could not shoot that round. Now they can Snap Fire! If a model with a Heavy Weapon moves, it can now shoot at its full rate of fire, but at Ballistic Skill 1, meaning that it will now hit on 6's. This doesn't sound great, and for single fire heavies like a Lascannon it might not help much. However, with high rate of fire heavies like Heavy Bolters, the chance of rolling a 6 are pretty good. Trust me, being on the receiving end of a Space Marine Tactical Squad advancing with a Heavy Bolter still scoring hits on my Orks is . . . actually it's kind of fun! I hate to loose Boyz, but I'll admit the game feels more fun with these rules.
A quick restriction with Snap Fire . . . weapons that fire Templates or Blasts cannot use Snap Fire. So Missile Launchers can't Snap Fire. I can't think of any heavy weapons that use template markers, as usually those are Assault weapons.
Snap Fire also comes into play with vehicles. Vehicles still have two speeds: Combat (up to 6") and Cruising (up to 12"). Vehicles moving at Combat Speed can fire a single weapon at their normal BS and all other shots must be Snap Fire (hit on 6's). Notice that the Machine Spirit vehicle upgrade still shoots as normal BS). Units that move at Cruising Speed can fire all their weapons, but all shots are Snap Fire. Considering that vehicles moving at Cruising Speed in the last edition couldn't fire at all, this is an amazing upgrade. Now a Space Marine Landraider can move up to 12" and still fire it's Lascannons, and since they are twin-linked, it will get re-rolls. If my calculations are correct, then that Landraider moving at Cruising Speed actually has a 52% chance of hitting with one Lascannon using Snap Fire!
How did I calculate that? You have to look at the probability of NOT hitting with one shot: 5/6 or roughly 83.3%. Next, you have to multiply that percent by the probability of NOT hitting with the next die roll (or 83.3%). Since you have 4 dice rolls (two lascannons, twin-linked) you have to take 83.3% x 83.3% x 83.3% x 83.3% = 48.2% chance of NOT hitting or a 51.2% of hitting once. Pretty nice, right?
There have been changes to Cover Saves in 6th edition, too! First, most things only give a 5+ cover save. Woods are a 5+. Area Terrain is a 5+. The only thing that is better than that is Ruins walls, which are a 4+. Notice that I said Ruins walls. If you have a set of ruins with clear wall boundaries, but some rubble in the middle (area terrain) then you have different levels of cover saves: 4+ if obscured by the walls and 5+ if un-obscured but in the area terrain.
So what does obscured mean? In 6th edition, a model is obscured if 25% of it cannot be seen. That's a major change, as it used to be 50%! This also includes vehicles, so you only have to hide 25% of a vehicles frontage to claim a cover save. It can get even better, too! If the frontage that an enemy is facing (in the front arc of a vehicle) is totally out of sight, but they can see part of the vehicle that they are not in its arc (standing in front arc, but can see the side arc), then the vehicle gets the cover save is at +1. So vehicles can possibly have up to a 3+ cover save if their front is hidden but their rear sticks out!
In 6th edition, cover saves are given to individual models, not to entire units. We'll get to this more when we look at allocating wounds. For the moment, just know that you can elect to focus fire at a target unit. Imagine this: an enemy unit has 6 models inside a ruins gaining a 4+ cover save, but 4 models outside the ruins and completely exposed. In 5th edition, this would mean that the entire unit got a 4+ cover save because the majority were in cover. Not so in 6th edition!
You can now elect to target the models in cover or the models in the open. If you chose to "focus fire" on the models in the open, hits and wounds can only be assigned to those models. Thus, they will not get the benefit of the cover save, but you are limited to killing only those models in the open. You can also use this rule defensively. You may want to leave a few models out in the open to tempt your opponent into targeting them. Sure, you wont get the cover save, but your opponent may actually kill fewer models. You have to run the numbers.
This is largely the greatest change to the Warhammer 40k shooting rules. 5th edition had all sorts of weird tricks you could do with wound allocation to keep your models alive. Every model with a different save or different gear had to have wounds allocated specifically to it or not. It was complicated and often benefited the defending player more than anything.
Now wounds are allocated to model closest to the firing unit, and keep being placed on that single model until it is dead. Once dead, the wounds continue to the next closest model. It sounds complicated and like it would slow down the game, but it doesn't.
It's simple. Say you hit a unit 10 times. You use the majority Toughness to determine wounds. Say you score 5 wounds. If the enemy models all have the same armor save, then it's very simple. Your opponent just picks up 5 dice and makes armor saves. Any unsaved wounds are taken from the models closest to your shooting unit. So if he fails 3 saves and all his models have 1 wound, he just removes the 3 models closest to your firing unit. If the models have multiple wounds (like a character standing out front or a multi-wound infantry), then just keep putting those unsaved wounds on the closest model until its dead or there are no more unsaved wounds to assign.
It's simple and really changes the game.
Note that Characters get a "Look Out, Sir!" roll of 4+ for sergeants or 2+ for Independent Characters. Basically, the character can roll that to "re-assign" the wounds to a friendly model within 6". Does the character get his armor save and then a "look out, sir!" roll? Two save? Yes and no. If your character has the same armor save as the rest of the unit, then you simply roll all the saves together. That way you are simply assigning unsaved wounds to the closest models. If your character was out front, then technically all those unsaved wounds are put on him . . . BUT he then gets to make a "Look Out, Sir!" roll for each one.
If your character has a different save from the rest of the unit, then you have to assigned Wounds to models one at a time before you make armor saves. It seems like the character has to choose whether or not to make a "Look Out, Sir!" roll before he makes his armor save in this case. The rule is not written very clear and we are all awaiting an official FAQ from Games Workshop. I will say that if an independent character with a better save gets to make his armor save first, and then, make a "Look Out, Sir!" roll after he's failed an armor save . . . well, then a character in Terminator armor can tank for an entire unit with very little risk to himself. I don't believe this is how it's supposed to work.
Let's do a quick run through of some other interesting rules for shooting:
- Rapid Fire Weapons - Models with rapid fire weapons can now move and fire a single shot up to their maximum range. This has an amazing effect on the game! Tactical squads (or non-marine equivalent) can actually move around and be effective. Most squads now have a 30" threat range, as they can move 6" and fire as normal out to 24" (for most rapid fire weapons). Combine that with Snap Fire for heavy weapons and it really feels like squads of infantry are advancing towards objectives in a cinematic, military fashion. Also note that the "double tap" range is now half the weapons range, not 12". This means that the Tau pule rifles can double tap up to 15" now, since their max range is 30".
- Sniper Weapons - Weapons with the sniper special rule can now "select" their targets with any "to hit" roll of a 6, ignoring the normal rules for wound allocation. This means that a good roll from a squad of snipers can effectively kill off enemy sergeants, special, and heavy weapons! The pinning rule is still in effect, so you can potentially force units to "go to ground" on a failed Leadership test.
- Precision Shooting - All characters (including sergeants) are effectively mini-snipers. Any "to hit" roll of 6 allows them to select their target, just like a sniper. How cool is that? It's actually a good idea to give your characters shooting weapons now.
- Shooting from Transports - Models in a transport can now fire more effectively, especially if its an open topped transport. As long as the vehicle moves at Combat Speed (6" or slower) the unit can fire as if they had moved normally. Combine this with the new Rapid Fire rules and now open topped "gun-boats" are very useful. Closed transports of Fire Points like normal.
New Favorite Shooting Rule
What's your favorite new rule for the Shooting Phase?
That's about it! There are a few other minor rule changes here and there, but I think we've covered the major changes that will most dramatically impact the game. I have played several 6th edition games now and I will tell you that the game does feel more "shooty". I like it, though! After all, this is the 41st millennium and guns are en vogue these days.
But which new rule do you think makes the most impact or is your favorite addition to 6th edition 40k? Why not take the poll to the right and voice your opinion.
We've covered most of the rule changes to 6th edition in the last three articles, but there are more to come! Very soon I will post the link to perhaps my final Rule Changes article: the Assault Phase!
Until then, if you haven't read my other articles, please follow the links below. We've had some great comments from readers, so please feel free to share your ideas, opinions, and strategies in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!