40K: Turn Order Needs An Overhaul

turn01What’s this you say?  Change the foundation upon which the game is built?  Blasphemer!  Heretic!  Chaos spawn!  Guilty on all accounts.


As the power levels of individual units has risen, Lords of War/D-Weps have become part of daily life and formations are the flavor of the day, it is much easier to perform effective Alpha Strikes and end games, IMO, much too early.  Do we really come to the table just to get slammered (I just made that word up…it sounded right) by turn 2?  I know I don’t.  Maybe in the tournament scene this is an enjoyable occurrence, although I doubt this is true there either.  In local metas, it is easier to mitigate such shinnanegans by asking the “do I want to lose friends?” question.  Still, in the hobby as a whole, because of the aforementioned increase in overall power levels, the importance of First Turn has risen to a troubling level.


The Problem with Going 2nd

Two examples.  First, I am playing a friend who has two mobs of 15 Lootas, both of which are on rooftops.  I take a squad of 3 Quad Mortars to try and mitigate this.  If he gets first turn, he can easily scratch those 3 mortars with either mob, and still have room to spare.  Conversely, if I get a first shot off my 12 templates have a good chance of eliminating one of those mobs.  If both of those Loota mobs survive into turn 2…ouch!  Next case is a friend who has a Fellblade and a Spartan…need I say more?  If he gets first shot off, I may well and truly just start packing up my models.  I am sure that you, dear readers, can come up with plenty of your own examples to illustrate the criticality of getting First Turn.  With each example we are making a case.  There is, admittedly, some hyperbole here.  None the less, the importance of First Turn starts to invalidate list choices, tactics, e.g.


OK, Dan, so you tell us there is a problem.  What to do about it?  There is no community solution here.  To affect any change that will not totally blow the current turn order out of the water is a job for the writers of 8th edition, if and when that ever arrives.  I still think it is worth at least talking about, since the more we discuss the need for change, the better our chances of having it occur…well, maybe.  So here are a couple of ideas for you to ponder.


The Grass is Always Greener…

Two gaming systems that I have actually played that deal with turn order in a completely different way are Malifaux and Infinity.  Both, by the way, are “skirmish” games with a limited number (usually 10-15) of models to move about the table.  Malifaux uses a system that lets one player activate a single model, then the other player.  There are obviously mechanics that affect this, but in general it’s “move mine – move yours.”  With Infinity, each player generates an “order pool” based on the number of models they have.  Interestingly, there is no limit as to how the order can be used by individual models.  For example, if the order pool has 10 orders, one model could move 3 times and shoot twice.  Another could then shoot 5 times.  Additionally, there is a mechanic called “AROs” (Automatic Reaction Orders) that allows the player who is not actively using their order pool to respond to movement/shooting.  In both the case of Malifaux and Infinity, there is very little down time for either player in terms of affecting the game.  The “inactive” players is anything but, and actively participates in the game during the entire turn.  To me, this is the key area that could effectively deal with the inability to react to an opponents actions.  These and many other successful tabletop gaming systems have run, and run hard, away from the “you go – I go” mechanic.  It’s time for 40K to do the same.


Can It Be Done?

One of the issues that 40K would have is the way it has segregated movement, psychic, shoot and assault into separate, sequenced phases.  It makes a transition to a more “interactive” systems difficult…unless.  Why not use a mechanic similar to those above for only the shooting phase?  Limiting this type of mechanic to the shooting phase, which is where most of the Alpha Strike goodness is unleashed anyway, would leave intact the phases that don’t require the tit-for-tat mechanic.  You shoot a unit, I fire back with a unit.  Does the unit returning fire have to be the one shot at?  Does a unit get to fire back even if it was eliminated by the shooting (simultaneous firing)?  These questions and a bazillion others are for the rules wonks to answer.   This type of change would of course lessen the impact of powerful units, in so much as it would allow opponents to respond with appropriate tactics.  Unlike the current meta, where your army sits helplessly and watches your opponent roll dice while you remove entire units from the tabletop.  Although Lords of War and Formations would still be powerful, at least it would allow both players to be active participants during the entire game turn.  Are there counters to powerful LoW and Formations?  Sure.  I get that.  But if the rest of your army is smacked off of the table by Turn 2, what good does it do?  Just as in the case of Alpha Strike examples, we could list dozens of counters for this or that LoW or Formation.  My question to you readers, is why do we have to rely on getting First Turn in order to use our counters or Alpha Strikes?  Is it the sign of a bad player if they rely too heavily on Alpha Striking?  Or is that just part of the competitive scene?  I am not saying folks don’t get tabled in Malifaux or Infinity…I have been both victim and perpetrator in both games.  Between two pretty evenly matched players, it is however, pretty rare.


One Last Thing

Final thought.  Is it even possible to move to a more flexible/tactical system in 40K?  We are usually talking several dozen models (40K) vs. one dozen (Malifaux/Infinity) after all.  But wait…isn’t a unit in 40K the equivalent of a model in a skirmish game?  For the most part, they act together during each phase of a turn.  So how are my 12 Space Marine units different than 12 Infinity models in terms of say, shooting? The number of dice is way different, but how different are they really in terms of final effect on the model/unit?  A single model takes wounds, a unit takes wounds.  A single model checks for morale and a unit checks for morale.  A single model fires its weapons, a single unit fires their weapons.  Something to consider.

Your thoughts on the “I go – you go” model we currently play with?



  • Ira Clements

    Years ago I experimented with alt activation for 40k. I am toying with adapting Bolt Action order dice. I prefer alt activation or some form of it.

    • Drathmere

      We just tried that. It was one of the better 40k games I have played. The step we took was to just dump 40k rules entirely and use Bolt Action rules to build up some mildly unique forces.

    • Thorolf

      Alt activation is great but it might not work for 40k, you run into many problems because armies can be so different. One player may have many small units, another may have few large units (this may just be because of codex as well), thus the player with the small units gets a huge activation order advantage.

    • Smurf

      I have a working document I call ‘bolter action’, which I believe works very well. I can send you the file if you like?

      • Ira Clements

        I would like to check that out. You can message me on Facebook and I can send you my email.

  • Drathmere

    40k has a lot of problems. Turn order is one of them, but it alone won’t be enough to make the game fun for me to play. I would also want to see the majority of special rules removed. Every unit in 40k breaks the rules in some way. That produces so many combinations that it is virtually impossible to understand the implications of different tactical decisions, since there are so many books to remember. I would like to see 40k get the age of sigmar treatment in some regards. A great simplification of the rules would do wonders to the game. There has to be a balance where I get the simplicity and tactical enjoyment from 40k that do from Bolt Action, but retain the flavor that makes 40k unique.

    • Deacon Ix

      I was sorting through my 40k books the other day and got out the 2nd ed Wargear book and had a brief flick through and the thing that jumped out was that there where hardly any special rules, the only real one being ‘Move or Shoot’.

      • 6Cobra

        Wargear maybe.. but 2nd was anything but simple, with its damage tables, parries, save modifiers, etc.

        • Deacon Ix

          yet I could get through a 2000pt game in an hour…

          • But that 2,000 point game was also only four units back then, including a character with multiple wargear cards (and so a high cost) and a vehicle (or monster, like the unkillable carnifex). So an hour for a game of around 30 models? They call that ‘lunch-hammer’ now.

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      agreed. Even regular players struggle to remember what all the special rules do which must tell you something.

      • shinmaga

        This is true, I was a judge at a major 40k tournament and nationally known tournament champions were asking me common rules questions.

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          I’m sure I spend at least 10 or 15 minutes per game with my head in the rulebook and I play every week.

          GW could help with better crib sheets, better organised books, but more than anything less special rules. So many do almost the same thing anyhow.

          • rudugugu

            “GW could help with better crib sheets, better organised books” because having them in alphabetic order in a special chapter of the book isn’t quite organized and because you’re too lazy to just put the ones that your army uses on paper or a text file… you don’t even need to come up with something new since the dark vengeance box comes with a separate cheat sheet with all the special rules and hit/wound roll tables…

          • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

            who rattled your cage?

            Putting a one line summary in the back with the charts would be even better…

            Its not just the special rules anyhow, the book as a whole is badly organised. Why are the rules for the psychic phase in one place and the spell charts in another for instance?

            I spent ten minutes in the last game looking for the rules for a weapon emplacement like an icarus deployed beside the building it was bought with rather than on top. Always a permissible rule as far as either of us could remember. Does it become artillery? Can it only be destroyed by firing at the building it is 6″ away from (counter intuitive)? Turns out there are simply no rules for it in the book. Had to assume the rules were in Stronghold Assault, so the £45 book required another book to run part of the game..

            Things like that occur in a lot of games. GWs rules just aren’t very thorough at the end of the day. Adds a lot of time searching for rules during the game.

    • Aaron King

      I dunno… I think that the USR system is a lot better, because then at least everyone has the SAME special rules.

    • Muninwing

      i’ve never had issue with remembering them. and a lot of players like that there is complexity, instead of the simplicity of AoS (which has more complexity, given each unit has special rules on its warscroll)

      just because you can’t keep up, don’t rob those of us of a game that scratches that complexity itch…

      • Drathmere

        I think 40k can be simplified significantly and still provide a rich gaming experience. Not every unit needs to break the rules!

        • Muninwing

          not every unit does break the rules… and again, that’s still in line with warscrolls adding new rules, so AoS isn;t your best comparison.

      • rudugugu

        the whole 40k rules problem can be explained by using “first world problems”… it’s just a bunch of self entitled people complaining just because they need to complain about something instead of just writing the special rules that their armies have on a piece of paper and have it handy without having to go back and forth through hundreds of pages …

        • Jamie Richard Micheal Seddon

          common sense is not allowed on this forum

        • Muninwing


          worse than that… if you use ArmyBuilder, it prints them for you.

  • Dave

    I like how Bolt Action handles it. Random unit selection until all units have gone.

  • Charles Covar

    What you propose in the shooting phase, works okay in the assault phase, abit with its own problems (lack of variation in the WS table mainly). In AoS where close combat is far more prevalent I think you have a pretty good model to look at. It runs smoothly and because you alternate picking units instead of resolving one combat at a time there’s more tactical decision making to be had.

    • Curtis Baldwin

      I feel the same way about the strategy involved with the AoS combat. The first time I played through a battle round it really stood out how important it was to pick who was going to attack first based on who I thought my opponent was going to attack with next.

    • garry

      I hate saying it but I love sooo much about the age of sigmar rules. I just wish it had point cost or some easy way of plbalancing. Wounds are stupid as skellis and orcs arnt equal power level, or orcs vs gobos.

  • No Body

    Many a game has been ended on turn 2 because one person or another took some ridiculous long range artillery. But at the same time, what the game does not need is anything to make it even more complicated and drawn out.

    • mugginns

      Alternating activation is definitely not complicated and drawn out

    • Calum Wallace

      And that right there is a large part of why alternating activation is being talked about. It radically reduces how drawn out the game is in one fell swoop.

  • Defenestratus

    Hrm. When I was truly afraid of an alpha strike, I always used reserves to great effect.

    What sucks is when they have alpha strike and a boatload of interceptor – that makes it tough but not impossible. Its why I hate playing tau.

    It also sounds like people need to play with more LOS blocking terrain.

    • Charon

      That is just shifting the problem onto your opponent.
      You can null-deploy as DE too which means your enemy basically loses his 1st turn and has no targets in his 2nd turn so you actually skip your first turn and your 2nd turn is in fact the first “real” turn of the game.
      This does not change the first turn advantage, it is just shifting the first turn advantage to you.

      The old nightfight mitigated some of these but nowadys activation seems to be a lot more fair for both – in all phases except melee.

  • orion

    here are some other alternate activation methods :

    space marines/netepic : D6 determine initiative. hidden orders are placed (move& fire, fire or charge). player 1 decides to move 1st or 2nd, orders are revealed, player moves all his models, then the other. then fighting phases : first fire (fire order) and advance fire (move & fire order) are both aternate, starting by player 1. CC order is determined by player 1

    man o’war : player with init plays one unit : move then fire, then the other player does the same.
    magic is done at the beginning of the turn, before any unit is moved, and both players can cast and dispell one spell.

    mercs (5 models/side) : init of each model is determined by a D10, if 2 models have same value, the one with the highest init value goes first (in its caracteristics), if same again, they act at the same time (and so can shoot each other to death).
    at its init rank, the model makes all its moves and actions

    cards/fog of war
    each unit is represented by a card. you put all the cards together, mix up, cut, take the 1st card and make the actions for that unit.

    the last method is not ideal for planning as it adds another layer of randomness.

    • PGConley

      Ugh, the last thing 40k needs is the random initiative of Mercs

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      Laserburn (Bryan Ansell’s game which is really the origin of 40K) has an initiative stat which determines turn action too. You can go at your initiative level or you can delay and then act later in the turn.

      I think I prefer the BA method though, Initiative took too much book keeping and I think we’d just have whole armies going first each turn anyhow. The Laserburn system only worked when both armies were essentially very similar, as in Infinity,

  • Tati

    i know there was another suppliment book, cant remember the name right off the bat but it made the turns a bit different. what it was after a player moved his units, the oponnent got to fire upon them, and it was vice verca, the opponent moved his units and you got to fire after he moved them

    • euansmith

      Was that the stuff for Zone Mortallis?

  • I have done this with 40k and determined the amount an army can activate based on the old rules for their strategy ratings. We alternate activated for each phase. So movement first, then psychic then shooting then combat. Some people are going to try and say this slows down the game, well I assure it does not and on top of that it also engages both players throughout the whole game not just during their turn or when they are getting shot in the face.

    • That last point is one of the things I dislike most about 40k. Especially in larger games there are huge portions of the game where you do nothing but take saving throws and remove models.

      Infinity doesn’t have that, as does Firestorm Armada or X-Wing.

  • TweetleBeetle

    I, for one, welcome quicker games. Nothing says fun like being 58:00 into a tournament round and my opponent is still in his first shooting phase. (Yes, that happened three rounds in a row at last year’s Adepticon.)

    I mean, Warmachine games routinely end turn one or two, yet everyone claims it’s fair, balanced, etc. Those quick games and absurd Feat turns don’t even allow for an opponent to respond or interact, yet we hear how every army had a chance…

    I am fine if there are a few “first strike” play options in 40k. They aren’t overwhelming anybody right now, and tournaments – which now permit every source and formation, so that argument is dead – are revealing balance is the way to play.

    Those first strike armies come with a high risk: if the opponent can force a longer game – which any player above a newborn kitten’s intelligence can accomplish – then the all-in-first army will struggle. Concurrently, there should be armies that it works well against. THAT is balance. Balance is not giving every army the same rules and tools, just with different names.

    • Sparowl

      Well then, maybe you should look into games that split time between players evenly. One of the reasons I won’t play GW games in tournaments or Malifaux anymore is because of uneven time, just like you are referencing. I have had similar experiences for both Warhammer Fantasy (7th edition) and Malifaux, where my opponent just ate time, got up slightly, then sat back and ran out the clock.

      By comparison, Warmachine’s deathclock system is pretty good.

      What games of Warmachine are you playing? Turn one or two? Maybe with really new players, but how is that different from rolling a new player of 40k or fantasy?

    • jeff white

      that sounds right.
      i like the turn based ness actually.
      long turns can be fixed with a clock so easily.

    • Richard Mitchell

      I have played both systems and comparing Warmachine to 40k is really not a fair assessment. I have never known games to end on turn 1 or turn 2 with maybe the exception of the pSorscha assassination trick during a Mangled Metal game (15pts or less) between two noobs. Warmachine is literally designed around scenario play to provide balance. This is why some 40k players who get into Warmachine have a negative experience when they default to the nonexistent “caster kill” scenario. There is no, I have to destroy every model to when or just assassinate your caster. Even Mangled Metal can be won if I destroy all my opponents ‘jacks rather than his caster. Think about it, at 35 points Warmachine’s most basic scenario becomes heavily tactical. I can coast my caster and warjacks in the rear of my infantry line but my opponent can use his caster and jack to support his infantry to decimate me. I am literary not utilizing my most valuable resources to win while my opponent is grinding my infantry to dust and preparing the majority of his army to kill either me or the one or two warjacks I decided to bring to the table. Take into consideration that every scenario has a “kill box” requirment now, which basically means you can even have your caster sit in his deployment zone the entire game or you opponent will score a point during his turn and YOUR turn as well for a total of 5 to win. Warmachine games last 3-4 turns on average because the game is supposed to be highly aggressive with warcasters being forced into vulnerable positions while there army protects the caster and takes valuable enemy pieces, or holds important locations on the board other then the objective (such as using models to prevent warjacks from doing a trample attack towards your caster). Warmachine is NOT 40k, nor was it designed to be and as someone who used to be heavily into 40k (I had dark eldar, space marine, thousand sons, black templar, nids, grey knights, and duh duh duhhhh iron hands?) if you do play 40k and you are thinking of getting into Warmachine it is best to get in looking for a NEW tactical experience rather than a REPLACEMENT one.

      Warmachine is not a classic minitures wargame like you might see with other games like BattleTech, Warmachine is if Chess and Magic the Gathering decided to have a baby. Now Battletech doe use an I go, you go system and it also has a wide variety of vehicle types, like 40k, is point based in army construction, like 40k, uses a d6 system, like 40k. And maybe 40k and Battletech have a lot to learn from each other. Maybe you should choose to activate a unit and then have your oppponent activate thier unit. But what about powerful solos, easy do what Dark Age and Infinity does, certain solos can link activate with specific units, so the solo does all his action for the phase (movement, shooting, assault, whatever) and then the unit his is linked to does theirs. Maybe vehicles can have a simplified systems damage and effects system like Battletech Alpha strike. Vehicles have more wounds than your average trooper but a space marine can use an armor piercing rocket to damage a point of armor and a system. Space marine mini rocket pistols and assault rifles can damage vechile armor, but not all weapons can damage armor. So how does IG compete, they can have larger, cheaper units, more people in those units can have rockes, entrenched weapon placements that can either mow down large number of less armored foes are affected heavily armored infantry. Give them more access to large but weak AOE’s then Space Marines. while SM’s are expensive with one guy with a rocket or heavy weapon, they would fit the fluff in being outnumbered most of the time but as moving weapon platforms they are more versatile individual and don’t need to be as unit specialized to deal with issues as standard infantry armies. What about large beasts? While they can be affected by all weapons (unlike tanks and such) but they have high armor values, more wounds then comparable vehicles and they don’t have systems. 40k needs to be totally revamped inorder to make it a competitive and strategically interesting game but these sort of large overhauls won’t take place because 1) many players like the system as it is, 2) these players are voting with their dollars 3) no business in thier right mind would alienate customers from thier most profitable product 4) while the design team might yearn for a more balanced play experience the marketing team does not see balanced play as profitable. This way many good designers (Andy Chambers, Rick Priestely, Alessio Cavatore) leave.

      • euansmith

        One suggestions… more paragraphs. 😉 Otherwise, good points.

        • Richard Mitchell

          There we go.

          • euansmith


  • lordofexcess

    Um. The whole damn system needs an overhaul. Seriously. It sucks. It hasn’t been good for a long time. It is all perspective though. If you are in an active group/club … you are like … what .. this is fine, it’s fine … what are you talking about. To people who have been away for a few years (me since 5th) they come back and go … OH MY GOD … why are there titans all over. Hey how does that guy have a Bloodthurster and a Hive Tyrant in the same list? WTF? What is going on here ….

    So ya. Erm. Turn order. Ummm. Ya. I’m sure they will get right on that.

    • Lewis Everitt

      haha I feel you bro. It’s turned from an imperfect system to a terrible system.

    • Crablezworth

      people who start in 7th don’t realize the game wasn’t always a bloated piece of crap.

      • Kyu

        People who start in 7th see the beauty of some of the setups that have come with the new rules. One of the problems I used to have when i played 4th edition 40k was that all the armies had the same setup, 1 HQ, 2 Troops and a selection of units from other unit types. Formations particularly are a great addition to the game that allow you to buy into a strategy and field something unique to your army with all the pros and cons that brings. What GW should do imo is write all their rules at the same time and balance them against each other rather than apparently their current method of writing codices one at a time and completely disregarding the previous rulesets when writing a new one. Part of this I think is the attitude GW has of being a miniatures seller first and a games maker second. Rather than selling a whole packaged experience like they used to.

  • I’m all for this, particularly as 40k already has 1 interactive phase: assault. I think that a way it could be done would be to allow the active player to select and fire a unit and then the inactive player can select and fire a unit, both happening simultaneously as a reaction. To be able to fire reactively a unit would need to be able to fire overwatch, and only pistols, assault, and rapid fire weapons can fire reactively. While the unit activates for reaction fire does not need to be the one just shot at it does need to target the unit which just shot.

    This increases the value of some units as opposed to others. All of a sudden basic guardsmen with Lasguns serve a purpose, and giant death machines aren’t quite as dominant as they wind up shooting half as often as their opponent does.

    Another potential change would be for a player to be able to activate a unit more than once for reaction fire as long as all other units which could fire reaction fire at a particular unit have already done so. This potentially could even make basic terminators good and help rebalance the game between small unit count armies and MSU spam builds.

    One other thing would be for heavy and salvo weapons to be able to fire reactively against vehicles and monstrous creatures as snap fire shots. Otherwise the meta would go 100% metal box.

  • WellSpokenMan

    I don’t think GW can think outside the box enough to fix this one, but I’m not a fan of the disengagement that comes form IGOUGO and nearly 2000 pt armies. Malifaux’s fate system and Infinity’s order pool add a extra layer of strategy to the game that 40k is missing at the moment. Once you’ve played those games a bit, 40k feels really clunky. I’d like to see the specialist games branch get all experimental with Killteam and borrow some cool ideas from other games. It be a great entry point, and the lessons learned could be applied to 40k in general.

    You know what would be the perfect Killteam box? Deathwatch. Not going to happen, but a man can dream.

    • euansmith

      Wasn’t there talk a month or so back of a Killteam game coming out next year?

  • trevorwatson

    The infinity idea would be intriguing. But scares me somewhat. If you give a 40k army 10 orders, it seems like the first 10 orders could be “I activate my titan. 10 strength 10 AP1 pie plates are shot at your army”. Okay, activate your…. oh, right.

    Though it would make Tau slightly less frightening. Turn 1. Unit 1. Move move move assault. Hey look, we’re in the tau lines without being shot for 3 turns!

    • Thorolf

      Yeah I think you’re onto something there, that’s why I think simultaneous shooting and combat would have a real place in the game system. Basically your units are always going to get your attacks off as long as they’re in position, they might still get slaughtered depending on what they’re facing, but at least they get to attack.

      It also has the advantage of being MUCH easier to assess the ‘game-state’ with a glance throughout the game. To me that’s part of the fun of mini war gaming, seeing the models in all their glory, when you can glance and know that everything is attacking everything else, no alpha strike or turn order abuse shennanigans going on, you get a clear picture of a battle unfolding in minature scale and you can clearly see powerful flanks, bullwarks, swarms and the opposing units interacting.

      • Muninwing

        take a page from D&D… each unit can make one big action and one medium action. movement and shooting are big, psychic powers and charging are medium. you can use a big for a medium with no penalty, or a medium for a big with a minor penalty (like overwatch or running).

        so each unit gets two tokens at the start of the turn. they use the tokens as the round goes on when they are able.

        i’m not a fan of complicated activation ideas… inevitably someone decides that chained activations are needed (the “i go, then i use a power that allows another unit to go… and they use a power that allows a unit to go”) and then proper chaining becomes immensely powerful. i’d rather do something like bolt action’s dice, like using initiative, or like “every unit takes a leadership test… how much they pass or fail it by, plus their initiative, is their activation number… as much as i’d rather it not be random i know GW would incorporate random mechanics into it.

  • Azrell

    Alternating group activation. An HQ activates and also activates up to 4 other units from its detachment within a certain range. Best of both worlds, makes being an HQ mean something again, and encourages larger detachment size over many smaller ones.

    • Muninwing

      what about initiative-based…

      vehicles get an init value based on type (fast skimmers get like an 8, fast get a 6, regular get a 5, lumbering get a 2)

      – relentless get a -1, slow and purposeful get a -2, shooting ordnance gets a -3 after
      – units use the best init value in their group
      – warlord gets to roll Ld to add +2 to the init of one unit within 12″

      the turn goes as follows:

      1. start counting down from 10
      2. units get to move or shoot on their initiative
      3. units get to use psychic powers after they move (and psychic phase mechanic gets an overhaul)… or psychic phase happens first, before init
      4. units get to shoot or move on init -1 (whatever they did not do… or maybe a second shot is overwatch and a second move is run)
      5. units get to charge on init -2, and fighting mechanics are invoked when the charges are resolved
      6. at the end of a round, fighting mechanics are invoked again (to balance the double-use they have now… it actually reduced cc a bit, but other changes could make it quite nasty)

      if units low init and get a penalty, they carry over into the next round (1-1=10, etc). going to ground and running could be worked into the turn mechanics as well (unit is unable to act for x clicks, etc… and ATSKNF could be a reduction of that instead of a immediate negation)

      just a thought. i’d like to see how it worked.

      that’d mean that (as they should be able to), a DE Wych unit would be able to move their transport, disembark, and charge a unit of marines before the astartes could move out of the way.

      maybe, to weaken it a bit, make overwatch something you can do instead of move or shoot normally… the kind of default defensive action that you can always do, but if you kill the whole unit or if you get charged super early and are freed up on your init you’ve used your options for the round

    • DeadlyYellow

      And here I was trying to figure out how to make Frostgrave’s activations work in a game of 40k’s scale.

    • Hedwerx

      Sounds similar to the way Black Powder/Hail Caesar works.

  • Thatroubleshootah

    As someone mentioned adapting bolt action order dice might be a great workaround. Not knowing if you will get to move shoot melee a squad next or your opponent will creates all sorts of unpredictability in the game and creates excitement and fun.

  • Psyfer

    TBH, I’ve been saying this ever since I played Warzone 1st ed.

  • Andrew Thomas

    I don’t think a lack of reactions is a problem; lack of minimum terrain counts is a bigger problem.

    • euansmith

      Lots of varied terrain is so cool.

  • Try Warzone Resurrection : here free rules if you really want to copmare Sci-Fi wargame with different activation system. http://calc.prodos.co.uk/photos/game_and_factions1_5.zip

    • euansmith

      “Copmare”… I know you meant “compare”, but “Copmare” sounds so cool… like a night time terror of the police.

      • Hedwerx

        A Copmare is the wife of a police horse.

  • Bremyr Feirfaust

    Just had this conversation last night with my fellow gamers and we discussed several topics that needed change but the main thing we thought would benefit the game most was a turn order restructuring. I told them of Infinity and the old Warzone that actually utilized units in a you go I go system. I think you hit the nail on the head Dan. Good Article.

  • John Felger

    You can’t make a silk purse out of a Sow’s Ear. There are so many things that need fixing in the game that picking one out is kind of pointless. While I don’t disagree with the notion that the utter lack of balance combines with the current turn based system to produce highly idiotic results, simply altering the turns won’t solve it. The lack of balance will just cause people to “waterfall” their broken units to continue to abuse the the current rotten system. The only thing that is going to fix the game will be a ground up entire balancing that is actually balancing units for the points. And… sure… why not… fix the idiotic turn system too.

  • David O

    I once tried a Initiative based game. you work your way down, back and forth. also put chages as part of movement.

  • dreamwarder

    Bolt Action indeed has the answer. Hardly surprising considering who designed it.

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      yep, I think the randomness of the mechanic suits 40K’s cinematic nature too.

      • euansmith


  • Squeeker

    “Bolt Action” activation dice do work with 40K rules. You just choose what unit does what. Simple The other game system which works well is turn based, but has random amount of orders and that is “Battlegroup”. Adapting either would stop the “I go first I win” problem that is inheirent with 40K.

  • jasonsation

    I like how X-wing handles turn order as a stat based on each ship. I wonder if a new star for each unit or the initiative stat could be used, or if it’d make some units too powerful?

    • Thorolf

      Yeah and Star Wars Armada handles it differently too, almost like “chess”, where choosing which of your units to activate is part of the strategy as there’s always a trade off.

  • Spacefrisian

    Alot of Bolt action turn order stuff. So i try something original.

    Give each unit a combat skill and apply the same turn order to it as the Xwing game, low combat skill moves first, high combat skill shoots and attacks first.

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      it wouldn’t help as a more Elite army would go first with all of its units, thus we’d be back to IGoYouGo.

  • OolonColluphid

    Game does need to be simplified. Assault and Movement should be the same phase and everything else the shooting phase.
    Deathstar’s need to be toned down. Everyone but White Scars and Dark Angels should have the ability to take biker troops removed. Any unit with D-Strength needs to be increased to over 400 points. Unbound needs to removed from the game completely.

    • Hedwerx

      Do you play WS or DA by any chance?

      • OolonColluphid

        Only Dark Angels. As their still a bit better then Codex Marines. Every Space Marine chapter having access too Biker troops is ridiculous. It’s something I don’t see RG, IH, & IF ever doing.

        • Hedwerx

          You do know that regular marines had bikes in the rules before Ravenwing even existed right?

          • OolonColluphid

            Yes. Don’t care. It’s a relic that needs to go. The only reason it hasn’t is because of a certain tread head who writes the Space Marine Codex.
            Doesn’t fit the fluff of most chapters and it unbalances any game their used.

          • Hedwerx

            RG would use them, bit difficult to run guerrilla warfare without the ability to maneuver and redeploy quickly. Anyway they’re just a cavalry analogue. Can’t see why other chapters wouldn’t use them either, the ability to push forward quickly or plug a hole in the line means they make more sense having them than not. RW and WS just use them to excess. Which makes less sense imo (especially WS) what’s the point in being able to zoom and boom with nothing to back it up with.

          • OolonColluphid

            No the Raven Guard would not and didn’t do so in the fluff. Not very Stealthy as they can’t use Wraith Slipping on a bike. They prefer Jump packs with with Assault Marines in the fluff if stealth doesn’t work. Iron hands are redundant as their Chapter Master prefers Razorbacks. Imperial Fist, well bikes aren’t good for Sieges and maneuverability is a problem for that type of fighting.
            Only chapters that would find use for them are Ultramarine’s and maybe Black Templars. Either way a Deathstar unit does not belong in the troop slot without having to buy named near Land Raider cost HQ.

          • euansmith

            I guess the issue is “Bikes as Troops”, rather than Fast Attack.

          • Hedwerx

            Ah, fair enough. Not hugely clear till I re-read, nevermind then. I thought he just meant bikes in general. I only play friendlies, so the term Deathstar means precisely dip all to me. I’d like to see marines using bikes like dragoons and dismounting to fight. but then the hardcore rules lawyers would find a way to ruin it i’m sure, and it’d be declared OP pretty quickly.

          • euansmith

            In truth “Deathstar” should mean a visually impressive and destructive unit that can actually be destroyed by the weakest enemy unit in the game due to some massive design flaw. 😀


          • Hedwerx

            Shooting an Imperator Titan in its “exhaust port” with a Laspistol. >_<

  • Tim Brümmer

    We tried 40k with Mongoose Starshipt Troopers/Battlefield Evolution rules a few times. Absolutely different and much easier and way faster to play without losing the fun. The rules were made by Andy Chambers wich can mean he always anted Warhamer to go that way. I absolutely love the SST 2Actions per turn and active Action/Reaction System wich allows much more variety than the GW System brought up with the last Edition(s)

  • garry

    Yeah each unit taking its full turn would be fine best. Each unit does its own movement/shooting/assault phase. Only problems are assault and magic. Just move psykic to the start of the turn:generate a big combine pool of dice used both for spells and dispelling.

    For the assault the oppent may chose to make its attacks back or wait for another unit to possibly charge them. Then at the end of all the activations have another assault phase. This would stand for the assault phase your oppent normally gets for units already stuck in combat. The 2nd phase has no charges but instead is just wrapping up on going assaults.

    • Thorolf

      Had the same ideas as you my friend! I think it would work quite well and speed up the game too.

  • Crablezworth

    Perhaps some los blocking terrain will help

    • euansmith

      Word, brah.

  • Shiwan8

    IgoUgo as a system might work better. Pick a unit, move, psychics, shoot, assault. Then the other player does the same.

    40k had overwatch back in the day. It was nothing special.

    • Drpx

      So did Fantasy. I think the big diff came with the new rules stating you pull casualties from the front and this being able to stop a charge.

    • Calum Wallace

      That’s alternating activation. IgoUgo is what describes the current 40k system.

      • Shiwan8

        What ever. Did you get the point?

        • Calum Wallace

          I think so? Is there anything you said that hadn’t been said several times by other posters?

          • Shiwan8

            I do not know, I’ve not done any studies on that subject. Does it even matter? If the idea was to never repeat things that someone already said there would be nothing for you to say either.

            I’m sorry, but your pseudo intellectual image boosting attempt is wasted on me. I just do not care, at all. I respect people who give. All you did now was an attempt to boost your ego by trying to press down someone you do not know.

  • Muninwing

    sorry, but using skirmish game examples for a force-based game is one of the big fallacies of wargaming.

    besides, there are many armies where going first is a detriment.

    i’ve had good luck for many editions with my Deathwing… and one of the reasons is that i i have a chance i go second. small model count means i can deploy where no opponent unit has line of sight. so they blow a turn doing nothing but jockeying for position (which usually puts them out in the open) before i move out and have a more effective shooting phase.

    alternating activation actually becomes a minigame, with the new special rule of one unit getting to activate another. it gets complicated, messy, and just as much a monster at the alternation. there are potentially better styles of play (i do like the idea of using Bolt Action rules), but that means actually finding ones that work, not cramming a different useless rule into a system.

    just like businesspeople who think governments or schools should be run like businesses despite massive flaws in the comparisons, a force-based game cannot necessarily use skirmish-based rules effectively.

    • euansmith

      Bolt Action seems to get along fine with its “Order Dice” system. You put one die in to a bag for each unit in each force and then draw one out at the start of each activation. The player controlling the dice’s faction gets to activate one unit. The result is an unpredictable and more fluid game.

      I-Go-U-Go is actually a very unnatural method of activation, as your opponent gets little or no chance to react to your actions.

      • Hedwerx

        I’ve noticed in the warlord forums that BA has it’s own balance issue of more infantry/unit dense armies like the russians can end up with a dicebag ratio of 3-1 so they still end up with more ‘goes’ than the other side. They end up winning through target saturation and a massive initiative advantage from having more dice to pull than the enemy. Some tourneys have tried to rebalance with dice caps, but that just swings it back the other way.

        • euansmith

          I guess that accurately models the historical situation on the Eastern Front. 😀

          In Gates of Anteres (Bolt Action IN SPAAAAAACE), they have included multi-dice units for larger and more powerful things; I suppose the same could be done for Elite Armies.

          • Hedwerx

            Could do, I think part of the problem with BA tourneys is they suffer from the same problems as what I’ve heard about GW tourneys. People look for the best unit types and max them out. For example Elite SS armies armed entirely with STG44s with Flammenwerfer support and loads of Pumas, and no MG42s in squads, or as support. So about as far from a real WWII army as you can get.

          • euansmith

            Maybe the organisers could issue lists for entrants to chose from? 😉

          • Calum Wallace

            Or big bonuses to tournament standing for ‘most realistic army list’?

          • euansmith

            The Dreaded “Comp”! The Power Gamers will be up in arms 😀

          • Calum Wallace

            Just as planned…

          • Hedwerx

            I’d run it as if you can show me a real world OOB for that army, with that structure you can use it. Otherwise it’s an ‘illegal’ list. That’d cut down on spamming the most effective (and normally rare) units.

          • euansmith

            That would be cool. You could say this event is set during such and such an operation (Market Garden, Goodwood, etc).

          • Hedwerx

            Yeah themed could work, you’d have a small group moaning you were stopping them from playing their favourite army if it didn’t take part in that action, but thats a cool idea.

            I like how we always seem to end up talking about something that’s only marginally related to the topic at hand.

          • euansmith

            Personally I thing that Krispy Kreme Doughnuts are rather over rated.

          • Hedwerx

            Oh god yes. £10 for 12 doughnuts, who do they think they are? Games Workshop?

          • euansmith

            😀 😀 😀

        • Calum Wallace

          Possible answer taken from Infinity; allow units to fire in reaction to enemy movement outside their own activation. Possibly apply only to ‘elite’ type units with high points cost and presumed higher quality of training as an excuse to counterbalance the advantage of large numbers of cheap low-quality troops?

          • Hedwerx

            There is an ‘Ambush’ order you can apply to your squads. Essentially the same as overwatch. If you pin a moving unit you can effectively stop it mid move.

            There was an old ww2 ruleset that allowed you to fire on any unit that passed through another units LOS with no distinct “Shooting” phase, weapons range, or movement restrictions but I can’t remember what it was called. Poor Bloody Infantry or Crossfire maybe? It’s been a while.

    • Calum Wallace

      Er, 40k is built on the rules base and turn structure of a quarter-century-old skirmish wargame called Rogue Trader.

      That’s why it’s so top-heavy; most of the core rule concepts were cooked up under the assumption each player would be using around at the most a couple of dozen individual miniatures.

      • Muninwing

        the gam has changed so much from RT that this really isn;t relevant.

        besides… the “i shoot 20 times, hit 12… then wound 6… then you shrug off four and two die…” number reductions are indicative of its need for units instead of skirmish-level individuals… else, half the game your models would not be interacting.

        • Hedwerx

          The core rules really haven’t changed that much. RT had units, it was still a skirmish game, it also had the capability to play like Necromunda with individuals. Some elements got simplified or dropped in 2nd. 2nd cleared out the RPG elements and paved the way for small armies, instead of 15 or so models a side. Everything since then has been ladling more rules and more troops onto the same system.

          Since then some stats have gone up, some have gone down. Instead of the complex but optional RPG elements from RT we now have a million and one hardcoded special rules.

          Instead of 2nd ed’s 20-30ish figures a side maneuvering around a terrain dense table. You’ve got 100s of figures fighting on the same size table with 1/4 the terrain. It’s gone from sci-fi combat, to napoleonic tactics in power armour. Photos from tourneys with lines of troops from edge to edge, carparks of vehicles with one or two terrain elements between them. The whole concept of alpha strikes is a symptom of armies being too big and unwieldy to start in cover. Because having enough terrain on the table to stop it means you don’t have the space to move around.

          • Hedwerx

            Also add in that the codices and supplements have jumped from eleven in 2nd, to 20+ now, and you can see where a lot of the bloat is coming from.

          • Muninwing

            ye terrain is constantly mentioned by players as the great equalizer that makes the game better.

            i don’t think that 4th’s guidelines — that 40% of a table should be covered in terrain — was feasible. but the minimalist terrain of many games that started in the terrain-placement minigame of 6th was (potentially) way too little.

            it’s actually why i’d love to see a comeback of planetstrike and cities of death style games or even campaigns… urban combat and assaulting an entrenched position are both parts of modern warfare, constant in the fluff, yet not embraced by the players.

            it really is all about the players. if you have enough terrain, tau shooting goes from supremacy to annoyance, hordes have different benefits and drawbacks, small elite armies don’t just get cleared away by grav salvos, maneuverability becomes a valued asset (and potentially a strategy in and of itself)… it just works better.

            but it’s not so much “not supported by the rules” as it is “not explicitly dictated,” and therefore many players do not want to use it. even when the game is better all around.

  • aka_mythos

    The problem of turn orders I think is largely a consequence of the game getting bigger; its left over from a time when a whole army was 30 models. With so few models, the consequences aren’t as pronounced as when you now talk about hundreds of models shooting or assaulting before you get your next turn.

  • Hedwerx

    Use something similar the Stargrunt system. Each unit get (x) (in this I’ll assume 2) activation points. Once a unit has been activated it can move/move or move/shoot or shoot/shoot or shoot/move or move/assault with more combinations depending on how many activation points it has. Players alternate activating units, if a unit finishes its turn with spare points it loses them. Psychic could either be part of the activation of the psyker unit or a seperate phase before or after the alternation.

    Though I have a feeling a total change of the games mechanics would throw up as many angry posts as discontinuing fantasy did.

    • euansmith

      I seem to remember that a commander can use one or two actions to activate or re-activate one or two squads under their command. Such fun. I’ve not played it in years.

      • Hedwerx

        Yeah if they passed a communications roll. they can pass on two activations for each of the commander activations. (so two units can get two free activation points after passing a comms roll for each)

        • euansmith

          “But ve are, like, Neu Swabians, mein freund…”

          • Hedwerx

            Neu Swabians, following old doctrine. Blitzkrieg 2.0. Platoons built around smartguns with hovertank and gunship support. Of course I was a little older than my brother so the NSL enjoyed a bigger military budget than the NI. I used to lend him my NAC to even up the odds a little.

            Oh, unt zey are not liking it up zem.

  • Drpx

    What we’re looking at is the end result of a design philosophy of giving every new unit an OMG WTF PWNBBQ factor so it would sell. GW introduces stuff largely by making it good at removing other stuff from the table and usually little else, so naturally the game becomes a contest of who can remove the other guy first.

  • If you’re gonna change anything, put armour saves before wound rolls.

  • Deploy smarter, and take Void Shields.

  • Red_Five_Standing_By

    The system can be simple.

    Psychic Phase. Both players alternate activating psychic powers until both have finished casting spells.

    Attack Phase: Both players alternate activating units. Units are allowed to move, shoot and declare assaults. If a unit is assaulted, then that unit gets to Overwatch (Overwatch consumes the entirety of your Attack Phase). Units in assault skip the Attack Phase.

    Assault Phase: Units attack one another in melee, activating on the initiative order.

    The only thing everyone would need to do is ensure they bring beads to the game to mark units that have acted in the Attack Phase.

    • Calum Wallace

      I’d entirely ditch the phase system, it’s an unneeded holdover and one of the big things that bogs the game down. Full alternating actions. Pick a unit to move/shoot/assault/etc; no specific order in which the unit may do so allowing a unit to fire then dive for cover ETC; take it in turns to do so until all players have run out of units; NEXT TURN.

  • Forrest Cory

    I just started painting 40k models and was looking forward to playing but it looks like I am going to have to wait awhile for the rules to be streamlined before I buy rulebooks and whatnot.

    • euansmith

      Don’t let the whining and negativity put you off (not even the really persuasive whining and negativity from me). As long as you play friendly games, 40k isn’t too terrible. If you play with a limited group of players, you could even try to interest them in using an alternative set of rules to play.

      Personally, I like my 40k in skirmish form these days. It means your hobby dollar goes a lot further. You can try “Kill Team”, “One Page Kill Team”, “Inquisitor 28” or countless other free sets of rules from the Internet.

      Take a look at Ammobunker’s Inq28 forum to see just how much fun this sort of thing can be (as a special extra secret ingredient, “Thistle” on this forum is John Blanche… the guy who put the grim in to the grim dark).


      • Calum Wallace

        Plus the 40k rule base, whichever version, just seems to work better at a smaller scale.

        A lot of the bog-down problems are because it’s using what’s basically a quarter-century-old skirmish ruleset for a full-size battle game – realistically speaking, outside force org and army list construction there aren’t that many core rule concepts that’ve changed since Rogue Trader – a game designed around an army size of maybe a couple of dozen miniatures per player. The base structure of the game is the same as it was in 1987, and ohboy does the age of it show.

        • Hedwerx

          Yeah 40k is a company (nearing battalion) level game using platoon level rules. They need to stratify the rules into spec-ops – skirmish – company level, more money than sense game. Although that’s basically what they had with Titan Legions/Space Marine and 40k… Then they ruined that by making Epic into a 6mm version of 40k and making 40k into a 30mm version of epic.

    • Muninwing

      there’s a lot of negativity. but there’s a lot of good too.

      the rules are… not ideal. but they aren’t as ridiculous as some people will claim, especially once you start playing — the best way to learn is to play, even if you lose.

      when i was a redshirt a decade ago, i was the store opponent. on slow nights if people didn’t have someone to play against, i’d step in. i played 3-5 games a week for a year (some less, some more), and it did wonders for how i understood the rules.

      find a local group. if they are too competitive, find a subset that is willing to not be jerks to newcomers, or find the people that used to attend but have left due to the overcompetitive people, and just play against as many different armies as you can. try new things, read up on some tactics and strategy, and have fun with it.

      you might realize that you want to field a different army. you might find fluff you love. you might stick with the same and build. you might get sick of it, or find a game you like better. but play. and be a good sport so people like playing with you. and then you’ll realize that you know the game.

  • Thorolf

    I have been saying this ever since I first played Star Wars Armada which really opened up my eyes to how TERRIBLY designed 40k is. It really killed all enthusiasm I had for 40k and now my models sit collecting dust.

    I’ve put together the bones of a new system that’s based around simultaneous shooting and combat, just need to find the time to write them into a ruleset.

  • Aaron King

    Fixing turn order is not really that difficult. Just do alternating movement and shooting (my friends and I developed this fix back in the RT days).

    • euansmith

      Turn One, Phase One…

  • LordKrungharr

    This subject is exactly why I’m getting a bunch of drop pods.

  • Malisteen

    I used to mess around with stuff like this. A LotR style priority roll, followed by “I move my stuff, you move yours; I shoot my stuff you shoot yours; I assault with my stuff you assault with yours” kind of thing worked well.

    Another thing that worked alright is just swapping shooting phases. I shoot in the shooting phase of your turn, you shoot in the shooting phase of my turn. Brings back a real overwatch, basically. Mitigates first turn and alpha-assault issues. Interesting in practice.

    Both are kind of cludgy in practice, of course, since the game isn’t made for them, but I think something like either would do a lot for the game’s playability. Of course, I don’t think fixing the turn order repairs the damage done by letting the power curve of some units and models swing so insanely high lately. That needs to be reigned in. Game’s hardly worth playing at all as it is, when basic units hardly matter outside of prohibitively large formations.

    • euansmith

      Those are smashing ideas.

    • Calum Wallace

      I love that idea of swapped shooting phases – I can imagine it’d have a fascinating effect on the flow of the game.

  • markdawg

    This is the main reason I quit playing 40k. I hate sitting waiting for the guy across from me do 4 phases of the game before I get to do anything.

    I play Bolt Action and it’s system if the best way for a wargame to unfold and have things feel like a real battle to simulate the fog of war.

  • Tesq

    You build list should also taking in consideration chance to not start first.
    Start second give you a superior deployment advantage, which who start first need to move to retake, start first it’s only dangerous when there is in the codex a warlord trait get you sieze the iniziative on first turn with 5 instead 6 and also let you re roll reserves.
    My army si build to start second and let exit from cover what i want of my opponents, so that my deep strike units and when enter can deep strike more easily in the spaces and i have very few things on first turn that can be ista kill which mean my opponents just get lured where i want (just as planned!)
    And if he does not and don’t take my trap anc came close my superior outrange won the games with my larges blast s8 and s10.
    You can very likey find a way do to this with every army

  • memitchell

    Too, late to read all posts. Sorry if this has already been mentioned. Go dig around in the junk closet for that dumb boardgame that came with your box of Betrayal of Calth miniatures. You stuck it in there somewhere, you probably didn’t throw it away. In that rulebook you will find an innovative and interesting game “system” made for 40K (er, 30K) miniatures. It has alternating actions with the innovation that each unit can perform one of two actions per turn, and then must alternate to the other player. But, can come back to that unit later in the turn. Your units can move, then fire. Fire, then move. Move twice, etc. And/or react to the other side’s actions. Very clever. And, its from GW. Who knew, right?

  • nurglitch

    Because people haven’t been talking about this since 2nd edition. I’ve played plenty of alternating activation games. Otherwise, I play 40k.

  • Kailen Lee Mitchell

    I’m became dead sick of I go for an hour you go for an hour. Alternate activation with reaction options are where the fun is at. IT could be done and I would bet it would revitalize the game. It would however require GW to really embrace change. I don’t see that in their business model.