Do we need a return to set charge distances in 8th Edition or is Random the way to go?
Hello again BoLS Readers, It’s AdamHarry back with another thought experiment about 8th Edition. You guys really seemed to want to talk about the last one about True Line of Sight/Cover so let’s talk about another subject: Charge Distances.
Not so long ago in the grand scheme of things we had set charge distances in Warhammer 40,000 – I’m sure many of you remember how that worked. Well one of the shifts was to the now standard 2d6 “random” charge distance. By itself, I actually don’t have a problem with it – Random Charge Distance really isn’t all bad (we’ll get to that in a bit). But I think the randomness of the charge + all of the other factors (which we will also talk about) together really hurt close-combat in 8th.
The Pros of Random Charge Distances
Random Charge Distance (RCD) represents the chaos of combat. If this tabletop war game is supposed to simulate combat in the future then this really makes sense. There are a lot of little factors when military units charge into close-combat. The ground, for one, is typically not flat like a table; there are rocks, potholes, debris, explosions and people shooting at you in real-world combat. There is a lot of stress involved! Not every combatant should be able to make that “40 yard dash” in the exact same time, every time. It’s just not realistic.
RCD can also be exciting because they add drama to the game – and make you perk-up when that dice roll happens. If there is one dice roll that will make folks stand-up and look it’s a pivotal charge roll. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. One player will be sitting in their chair waiting for their opponent to finish their phase and then the rolls for charges happen. That player will stand up and hover over the board waiting to see what happens. Why? Because it’s exciting! Will they make the charge or will they fail it and spare my poor unit the face-punching? That’s good drama.
Another benefit of the RCD is that it helps to spice up the game a bit. When a few of your well thought out charges roll double 1’s and you fail, it forces you to come-up with a new plan on the fly. It keeps you on your feet and prevents the game from becoming a chess match where Unit A moves, then Unit B counters and Unit C counter-counters. Some folks are a fan of that style, some are not. I don’t think either play styles are wrong because it’s just a matter of personal preference.
I also think it allows for some really “gutsy” moves. Sometimes you’re only shot is to go for a 10 inch charge. The odds are low you’ll make it, but you know what, it can happen! So you go for it and it pays off swinging the game in your favor. If you had failed you probably were going to lose anyways. RDC allows for that to happen.
The Cons of Random Charge Distance
The actual dice roll of the RCD is just one more roll we don’t need. Look, there are already tons of dice roll in the game if we could have a set charge distance that was the same across the board for unit types then we wouldn’t need to add one more roll. Think of all the time we’d save!
The Randomness of the dice also allow for too much movement in some cases and too little in others. Why do Guardsmen have the ability to out-run a Space Marine when their dice are hot? That makes no sense. That “lucky” roll for a 10 inch charge was just that – luck. You’re no tactical genius when your dice are hot. Conversely that doesn’t make you an incapable commander when your dice are ice cold, either. That’s just luck.
Also, why is the charge distance randomized but the charge into cover penalty static? It used to be the other way around… Sometimes it feels like the game designers want the game to simulate combat on the tabletop and other times it seems like they don’t. It would be nice if I were a mind reader and knew what they were trying to do. But I’m not. So now all were left with is a game that is this hybrid of “abstractions” and “realism” that can be confusing and counter-intuitive.
Those Pesky Other Factors
Let’s face it, in a vacuum Static Charges vs Random seem pretty valid either way. But charging isn’t the only mechanic in the game. There are lots of other factors that go along with that and I think those factors combined with RCD are what led to a very stale meta for Close-Combat geared armies.
One factor we have to confront is the proliferation of firepower in Warhammer 40,000. It seems like everyone is shooting Str 6 guns with a billion shots that are all ap1. That’s not the case but it feels that way sometimes. While that is hyperbole, the fact is that armies in 40k have access to more long range firepower than ever before. Couple that in with allies who can make-up for your lack of firepower and there is no good reason an army to NOT bring the big guns to the table. You have access to it, use it!
We don’t care if this is Canon or not. Allies forever!
All that firepower leads to some very deadly gunline style armies. Couple that with Overwatch fire and you’ve got a dangerous combination. Suddenly those RCD can get even shorter because your lead-off models are getting picked off on the way in. That could cost you a couple of much needed inches on the charge. That’s bad times for close combat.
I know a lot of folks will just say “Well you’re just not playing with enough cover.” To those folks I say, “Hey, was that you in the bushes watching my last 10 games?! I thought I recognized you!” Even if you are playing with more than enough cover there are also lots of ways to get weapons that ignore cover completely. I’ve even resorted to bringing my own cover with me and it still doesn’t work as well as you folks claim when the enemy can just ignore it anyways.
Another thing that really hurts both RCD and Static Charges was the removal of Sweeping Advance. I think that when you combined this removal and the addition of Overwatch back in the game it really made things rough for Charging in general. It feels like there is a lot of risk involved with charging across the board and the pay-off is lower. But what if it wasn’t though…Something to consider.
Then there is one of the big bogey-men of 7th Edition: Invisibility. Just saying it makes me shutter… It’s the one psychic power that I think everyone can agree to hate even when you’re the one casting it. Now, I’m not going to get into that discussion – that’s not the point of the article. But fact that it does exist in the game as a “hard counter” doesn’t mean that it’s a good solution for fixing charging or close-combat armies.
That is some high-quality art work there.
I’m sure there are lots more factors you can think of that have hurt the ability of charging. Again, I bring those up to show how all those things as a whole really negatively impact the game play experience for close-combat armies. That can also color your view on Random Charge Distances as well.
Will 8th Edition have Random Charge Distance or Static Charge Distances? Only GW really knows. What I do know is that in 7th, we’ve seen close combat armies slip in the power rankings. There are still some that can do well but the basic charging infantry unit isn’t really a thing anymore. I’m not asking for a return to the “Rhino Rush” days – but I am saying that all of the factors need to be considered if we’re going to have Random or Static Charges in 8th.
So what do you think? Do you want Random or Static Charges in 8th?