40K Deep Thought: Wound Allocation and its Victims

So I’ve been playing a bit and thinking over the implications of the wound allocation rules (p.25) covering complex units.  It has occured to me that this one change is perhaps the biggest hidden unbalancing factor that has reshuffled the power levels of many armies.

Lets take an example from 4th and 5th edition:

A simple 5 Marine Tactical combat squad:
-Sergeant with Powerfist
-3 Bolters

4th Edition:
-Unit suffers 15 wounds from small arms,
-Rolls 15 dice, (5 total armor saves failed)
-5 models removed (squad destroyed)

5th Edtion:
-Unit suffers 15 wounds from small arms,

-Player allocates 3 to Serg, 3 to Flamer, and 9 to Bolters
-Serg fails 2, Flamer fails 0, Bolters fail 4 (6 total armor saves failed)
-4 models removed (Flamer survives)

The difference is subtle, but critical.  In 5th this effect is further amplified by the ease of finding cover saves, further nullifying the effect of weapons that normally ignore armor like massed plasma or meltagun fire.

What this is doing behind the scenes is ensuring that ranged fire is on average killing less models and in particular making it difficult to reliably wipe out entire units in a single shooting phase.  So why does this matter?

The issue is that you can group most armies and units in the game into those that have good protection and ok lethality and those with much weaker protection but higher lethality.  In 4th edition, those groups roughly balanced each other out.  With the 5th Edition wound allocation rules, the scales have shifted in favor of those units with heavy protection.

Think about units that must reliably kill off an entire enemy unit with fire, as even 1 or 2 survivors who can reach them in the next turn can destroy or tie-up the hapless unit the entire game.  Does this sound like any armies you know?  Have you seen those armies having a much harder slog these days? 

On the other hand, think of those units who have average firepower but great individual protection (especially if they are available in numbers).  Once again, remind you of anyone?  Now think about the lower level of worry squads such as these have on the open field these days vs small arms.  I can’t remember the last time I really was too worried vs the thin-skinned armies firepower of late.

So as you are endlessly tweaking your forces, and trying to better master 5th edition, look beyond the simple points and weapon stats.  Often its the subtle rules tweaks that are shifting the tectonic plates of gamebalance beneath all of our feet. 

~How do you thing wound allocation has changed the meta game, and do you think its worth the extra time and hastle involved?  Who are the big winners, and who got the shaft?  Generals???

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