Pew Pew – 40K’s Evolving Shooting Phase

Hi everyone, Michael here taking a look at how the shooting phase has changed over the decades in 40k.

For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.

The shooting phase has always been a major component of 40k. It has seen some radical changes since the early days of second edition, with each new edition of the game seeming to increase the power of this particular phase. The most recent rumours released by Games Workshop seem to imply that some aspects of 2nd edition may be returning to the game, so it is interesting to me to look back and see where we have come from.

Most players with agree that it is one of the most powerful phases in the game, with many games being decided in the shooting phase.

Second Edition (1993-1998)- Modifying your Success

The rules for the shooting phase in 2nd edition 40k are quite different to the current state of the game. All models were restricted to a front 90 degree firing arc, meaning that model placement and positioning was even more important in 2nd edition than in the current game. True Line of Sight was also used in this edition, with the effects of cover affecting the To Hit values for units. For example, soft cover (such as hedges, shrubs and most vegetation) incurred a -1 To Hit penalty, whereas hard cover (walls, buildings, craters, etc) incurred a -2 To Hit penalty.

The actual system for determining whether a unit was hit has remained unchanged since this time. The ballistic skill value of a unit was used to determine the die roll required for the shot to be successful. For example, a Space Marine attempting to shoot an Ork behind soft cover would require a 4+ to hit (a ballistic skill of 4 requiring a 3+, with a -1 penalty for soft cover).

In 2nd edition, units had to shoot at the closest enemy unit. However, units could ignore enemy units in cover or units that were fleeing. In addition, units could choose to ignore or specifically target enemy vehicles. This meant that cheap screening units were of particular importance in 2nd edition, as these units could be used to shield more valuable units in your army from enemy fire power. Also, the target would have to be chosen without measuring the distance between the units. If the enemy unit was out of range, then the shorts were wasted. This meant that estimating the distance between your units was a very valuable skill to have in 2nd edition 40k, as poor guessing of distances resulted in more wasted shots in the shooting phase.

What was interesting was that models in a unit with special or heavy weapons could choose to target a different enemy unit in the shooting phase. This meant that all units in your army has an inherent form of split fire. To complicate matters even further, fire could be split between multiple enemy units depending on how your own models in the unit were positioned and how they were armed.

The To Hit chart remained the same as it has always been (7-BS). As mentioned above, different cover provided different penalties to hit in the shooting phase. Different weapons also provided bonuses or penalties to hit depending on the range of the target unit. In addition, the speed of the target enemy unit also had an effect on the to hit penalty, with further negative penalties to the roll for fast-moving units.

The To Wound damage table was also similar to the currently used table. Strength and toughness values were used to determine the roll required to wound. As expected, saving throws were taken against any wounds caused. However, the armour save was modified by the strength of the weapon, as well as other additional modifiers. As a general rule, the armour save was decreased by one for each point of strength above 4 (e.g. Strength 4 incurred a -1 penalty, strength five incurred a -2 penalty, etc.). More powerful weapons could incur even larger armour penetrating penalties to the save. This system also allowed for different types of saving rules to be used. For example, Terminator armour was a 2+ save on 2D6. This meant that Terminator armour was immune to weapons that were strength 3 or below, or weapons that did not modify the armour save.

Much like the current edition of the game, casualties were removed from those models closest to the firer. In addition, units could fire into Close combat, but hits where randomised between the two combatants. This means firing into combat was a useful tactic, but at the risk that you could harm your own units.

Also, much like the current game, units could not move and fire with certain weapons (generally what would now be considered heavy weapons).


Having a Blast

Much like in the current edition, more powerful weapons used blast markers to inflict higher casualties on enemy units. Unlike the current edition, blast markers were not limited to two standard sizes. A number of different template shapes and sizes could be used for different weapons. With a blast weapon, players would roll to hit as normal. If a hit was scored, the player would place the blast marker centred over one model. All models under the template were hit, any models partially under a template were hit on a 4+. If the shot was missed, the blast marker would scatter. Players would roll the scatter dice and artillery dice to determine where the blast would land. If a misfire was rolled on the artillery die, this could result in the shot being a dud or even the weapon exploding in some cases. One interesting aspect of this system was that the scatter was limited to five inches.

Grenades could also be thrown in the shooting phase. This was not limited to one grenade per squad. The range of the thrown grenades depended on the strength of the thrower (up to 12” for S5+).

Also, much like the current edition, template weapons required no roll to hit and were unaffected by cover.

The concept of sustained fire was also used for more powerful multi-shot weapons. Players could fire multiple shots at multiple targets determined by rolling the sustained fire dice. Its shots would need to be allocated within 4 inches of the original target, however, the more powerful weapons had a chance of jamming if a jam symbol was rolled on the sustained fire dice. This was a trade-off for having more shots with the weapon at the risk of not being able to fire the weapon in the following turn.



2nd edition also had a version of overwatch fire. This allowed you to forgo shooting in your own turn in order to be able to shoot in your opponent’s turn. Units that decided to go on overwatch in their own turn could do nothing else for the rest of that turn, not even moving.

Units in overwatch were allowed to fire in the enemy shooting phase at any time, before or after the enemy unit had moved. Units in overwatch could even shoot at units between moving, i.e. shooting at an enemy unit that had moved from one piece of cover to another. Units in overwatch suffered an additional -1 penalty to hit for overwatch fire, in addition to any other penalties from shooting. You could even fire at a charging enemy unit. If a unit that was in overwatch was fired upon, it had to take a leadership test. If failed, the unit would lose their overwatch counter and would be unable to fire.

Overwatch was a very powerful ability in second edition. It enabled you to react to your opponent’s movement phase and battle plans and fire upon them as they attempted to manoeuvre. This meant you could fire on enemy units as they moved into Line of Sight from behind cover or you could fire at enemy units as they closed range with your own units, or even if they were attempting to charge into combat. This made deciding what units went into overwatch an important tactical part of the game, as you would suffer a to hit penalty, but in exchange could potentially disrupt your opponent’s battleplans.


The shooting phase in second version was a highly complex affair. Frequently, you would need to resolve the shots from a single unit individually due to all the different modifiers from different ranges, cover types, weapon types, etc. There was also the added complexity of one unit being able to shoot at multiple different targets. Fortunately, armies were much smaller in 2nd edition than in the current edition. However, this added level of complexity meant much longer games even for these smaller army sizes. As with all aspects of the game, third edition saw a dramatic simplification of the rules for the shooting phase.

Third Edition (1998-2004)- Back to Basics

As with much of 40k, the release of third edition saw big changes for the shooting phase. One of the biggest changes was that To Hit modifiers where removed from the game to simplify shooting attacks. The firer always used their base ballistic skill (in most cases), to determine if a shot was successful. This served to dramatically speed up gameplay by allowing players to roll all shooting dice at once, rather than have to roll for each individual model in a unit.

The unit was restricted to firing at a single target, so no more targeting separately with bolters the infantry and firing at an enemy vehicle with a Lascannon. Players now had to choose whether to waste Bolter shots going after enemy armour or to target enemy infantry and potentially waste the Lascannon shot on a single infantry model. This added a further layer of tactical play to the game.

Line of Sight was no longer blocked by models in your own unit (except vehicles) and Infantry models were not specified to have a filing arc. It was assumed that all Infantry had a 360 degree field of vision.

As with second edition, ranges for weapons could not be measured. Players still had to estimate if a unit was in range of their guns. Only models in the weapon’s range could be hit and could be removed as a casualty.

Rolling to hit and to wound were the same as in the current edition. To hit modifiers where no longer a part of the game. In a further change, shooting casualties were removed by the owning player. This allowed players to choose to keep leaders and/or special weapons alive when taking enemy fire. This decreased part of the emphasis on model placement, as players could simply choose whether to keep certain models alive or not as long as others were in range of enemy guns.

The concept of armour penetration (AP) was also introduced. Saving throws where no longer modified by the strength of the weapon being fired. The target unit now either got the full armour save or their armour save was completely negated. This made units such as space marines much more powerful, as generally only selected special or heavy weapons could entirely remove their armour saves.

The concept of instant death was also introduced. If a model was wounded by a weapon with a strength of double its toughness, the model was killed outright (assuming it failed its save). This meant that more powerful, high strength weapons that were previously able to inflict multiple wounds were still able to kill multi-wound models in one shot.

The effects of cover on shooting were now taken into account in the form of cover saves. Whereas before, cover had an effect on the ability to hit the target, terrain now provided additional protection for models that were in cover. Models now received a saving throw based on the type of cover that they were in (generally 5+). As in the current edition, cover saves could only be taken instead of armour saves. In a similar vein, invulnerable saves where introduced that could always be taken, regardless of the AP of the firing weapon.


Weapon Types

3rd edition also saw the myriad of ranged weapons consolidated into various different weapon types. These weapon types gave general rules for the different ranged weapons in the 41st millennium.

Rapid fire weapons were the general weapon type for many of the Infantry units in the game. If the unit moved, the unit could fire one shot up to 12″. If the unit remained stationary, it could fire twice up to 12 inches and once up to full range over 12 inches. The heavy weapons type represented larger rate of fire weapons. Units armed with heavy weapons could not move and fire. Assault weapons were more mobile firearms, a unit moving suffered no penalty when firing assault weapons. Template weapons such as flame weapons were larger area of effect, the models under the template were all hit. The effects of cover was ignored on template weapons and only models under the template could be removed as casualties.

Blast weapons were introduced with two blast types; small blast and large blast. The player would roll to hit as normal. If a hit was scored, the player placed the blast marker over the target. Models fully under the blast were all hit, models partially under the blast were hit on a 4+ and only models under the template could be removed as casualties. Interestingly, the target player was allowed to move the blast marker, as long as the blast was still in range of the weapon and covered the same number of models. This allowed the targeted player to potentially save specialist weapons or squad leaders from being unfairly targeted by the Blast.

Barrage weapons were also introduced. These weapons were guess range. Players had to guess the range to the target and the shot also scattered a further D6″. Again, this meant being able to estimate the distances between units was a valuable skill in third edition.

I remember playing games at my local Games Workshop on a 4×4 board, where my whirlwind could cause havoc with some surprisingly accurate firing. Many veteran players were able to develop pinpoint accuracy on their guess range blast weapons over time.

In addition to the weapon types, some weapon effects were also added to the rules. For example, melta weapons got an additional D6 armour penetration, while sniper rifles always hit on a 2+ and wounded on a 4+.

Plasma weapons gained it gets hot rule. On a 1 to hit, models suffered a single wound but got to make an armour save.

3rd edition greatly simplified the rules for the shooting phase in 40k. Along with the other rules simplifications, this enabled much larger games of 40k to be played in the same time scale relative to second edition. Many of the concepts introduced in this edition continue to make their mark on the game today.

Fourth Edition (2004-2008)- Firefight Frenzy

The release of 4th edition saw a number of changes implemented to the shooting phase, the most major changes affecting the use of screening units and rapid fire weapons. Units now had to fire at the closest enemy unit, unless they could pass a leadership test. Enemy units that where locked in combat or were falling back could be ignored as the closest enemy units. Equally, enemy vehicles and monstrous creatures could always be targeted as the closest enemy units due to their larger presence on the battlefield. This made the leadership characteristic more important for units than simply for morale purposes. Units with higher leadership values represented more combat-savvy units that allowed for more tactical flexibility.

The change was necessitated by the excessive dependence players place on screening. That is, the practice of putting an expendable unit in base to base formation in front of a far more expensive unit…… These tired old tactics are now dead and gone. In the revised-edition a unit must always fire at the closest target unless it makes a successful leadership test in which case it can choose who to shoot at. Line of Sight is only blocked by terrain, vehicles and monstrous creatures. As you can imagine this makes leadership even more important.

This obviously has a very significant effect. Anything that is firing at the enemy is subject to being shot at in return. Tactically this will provoke a different approach. It is now more important to present a range of threats to draw off the enemy’s fire. Skirmish lines can now be spread out so that they look like, well, skirmish screens, and should be effective in drawing some of the enemy’s fire from your key formations.” Pete Haines, Designer’s Notes, White Dwarf 297.

Now Line of Sight was no longer blocked by most enemy units, it could still be blocked by vehicles, monstrous creatures and area terrain. Units could not see past 6 inches of area terrain, meaning that ruins and woods could still block enemy fire. Area terrain also added to the complexity of cover saves. Height ranges were now split into three levels; size 1, 2 and 3. This had an effect on which models were able to claim cover saves from certain terrain features. For example, monstrous creatures (size 3) could claim cover saves from size 2 terrain, but not from size 1 terrain. This added further complexity to the cover save system.

The other major area of revision in 4th edition was in how rapid fire weapons functioned. In third edition, the penalties to moving and firing rapid fire weapons meant that units armed with these weapons tended to have a more static role in the game.

The next most radical step involves rapid fire weapons. It had been clear for some time that this category of weapons was not well regarded…….. Something had to be done though. If there is one seminal, iconic image in Warhammer 40,000 it is of a Space Marine, legs braced, firing his bolter from the hip. Not clubbing his opponent to death with it.

This solution was to permit rapid fire weapons to be fired twice at close range even if the firer had moved. Immediately close range firefights started becoming much more common in our playtest games.”

Under the revised rules rapid fire weapons are not a sentence to be immobile for the whole game. Units that get into the right positions can do serious harm without depending totally on their squad’s heavy weapon. The only downside is that if you shoot rapid fire weapons then you cannot charge that turn.” Pete Haines, Designer’s Notes, White Dwarf 297.

The new rapid fire rules allowed units to fire twice up to 12″ whether they had moved or remained stationary. Alternatively, if they had not moved, they could fire once up to the full range of the weapon. This made close range firefights more powerful in 40k, and encouraged players to close with the enemy in order to unleash more devastating volleys of fire. This rule effectively doubled the effectiveness of rapid fire weapons. Needless to say, my Orks were not fans of this change in 4th edition.

These rules changes meant that armies could not rely on large numbers of screening units, and that close range firefights became deadlier in 40k. These changes saved to make the shooting phase and even more powerful force in the game.

Fifth Edition (2008-2012)- Run, Ultramarine, Run!

The release of fifth edition saw more major changes to the shooting phase. One of the most impactful changes was that the game now used true Line of Sight. Players no longer had to be concerned about the effects of area terrain or which enemy units blocked other enemy units. If you could see it, you could shoot at it.

Another major change to the shooting phase in fifth edition was the addition of the run move. This enabled units to forgo shooting a ranged weapon in order to move an additional D6″ in the shooting phase.

Previously, units with the fleet special rule were allowed to move in the shooting phase, but now all armies had access to this ability. Models that ran were then unable to assault (unless they had the fleet special rule).

This finally gave units that had no ranged weapon or that were better suited for combat, a role in the shooting phase. Players could use the new run rule in order to close the distance with the enemy unit quicker and hopefully cause more damage in combat as a result.

Players still had to estimate the range between units has no pre measuring was allowed.

Rolling to hit worked as normal. However, ballistic skills over 5 were now given an additional chance to hit if the first To Hit roll was a one.

Cover saves werealso improved in this edition, in order to compensate for the increased shooting ability of armies thanks to true line of sight.

To compensate for the increase in shooting, I’ve improved cover saves, both in terms of who gets them and the protection they offer. Now, more often than not, cover saves will confer a 4+ save. More dramatically, shooting through intervening squads, whether friend or foe, automatically awards the target a 4+ cover save.” Alessio Cavatore, A Time For Change (5th edition design notes), White Dwarf 343.

Shooting through units (friend or foe), ruins, walls and forests/ woods gave a 4+ cover save. In addition, units could now go to ground. This granted a +1 to any covers saves that the unit had (6+ in the open), but the units could not do anything else that turn.

The rules for removing casualties also changed. Players assigned each wound to a different member of the squad until all the wounds were allocated. They then rolled saves for each type of model in the unit (i.e. models in the unit with the same stats and wargear). This allowed players to try and save models with different weapons or character models, though there was still a chance they would be lost if the opponent caused sufficient damage.

This also allowed players to “ignore” wounds. In the example in the rulebook, players were able to ignore a wound if all of the models of a “type” where killed and there were excess wounds allocated to that type.

Models could be removed that were out of weapons range or Line of Sight, as long as least one model in the unit was in range. Firepower in the shooting phase became much more punishing, you only needed one enemy model in range of your guns in order to wipe out the unit.

The problem with multiple Organisms!

Multi-wound models were the cause of multiple problems with 5th edition. For multi-wound model units, you would allocate wounds based on different stats and wargear. You had to remove whole models when possible, but only within each model type. This made it easier for players to spread wounds over multiple models in the unit to ensure that they remained at peak effectiveness for longer. All you had to do was ensure that they were armed differently. For example, a unit of 5 Nobs would not lose a model until 6 wounds had been caused on the unit, as long as each was armed slightly different.

Nob bikers were particularly notorious for this in 5th edition. A unit of Ork nobs on bikes could take a painboy and all be armed with different wargear. This unit could suffer a wound for every model in the unit before any model was removed. As a result, it could tank a lot of wounds.

The unit had T5, a 4+ armour save and a 4+ feel no pain roll. Players needed a very high volume of fire or high strength weapons to take them out. However, in 5th edition, the +1T bonus for the bikes did not count towards instant death and feel no pain was negated by instant death and AP1 or AP2 weapons.

These sort of wound allocation shenanigans on multi-wound models was often cited as one of the major problems with 5th edition.

Another major change to the shooting phase in fifth edition was how blast weapons functioned. Previously, blast weapons had to roll to hit much like other ranged weapons. A successful hit would still cause the blast to scatter a short distance. However, a miss would cause the blast to do no damage at all.

In 5th edition, the rules for blast weapons change that they no longer needed to roll to hit. The blast was now placed over the target unit, and scattered 2D6″ minus the ballistic skill of the firer. This made all blast weapons, particularly large blast weapons, more potent as they had an increased chance of hitting. In addition, wounds from the blast did not have to be against models under the blast marker, wounds could be allocated to any model in the target unit. This stopped blast weapons being used to “snipe” out special models in the target unit.

My memories of the 5th edition shooting phase was one that was dominated by very good cover saves and multi-wound model problems. This edition tended to feature a lot of cover-heavy tables and static shooting armies.

Sixth Edition (2012-2014)- Snap Decisions, a (Pre-)Measure of Success

The release of sixth edition in 2012 saw perhaps the most dramatic change to the game since the change from 2nd edition to 3rd edition; the introduction of pre-measuring. Previously, weapon ranges and assault ranges had to be estimated by the player. No doubt many veteran players were upset by this addition to the rules, however, I think most would now agree in retrospect that this was a welcome change to the ruleset. This change led to faster games and more tactical play in some respects. The game was no longer a guessing game, you could accurately know if a firing unit was in range. This helped the game to focus more on movement and tactics, rather than having the game decided by one player being better at estimating than the other.

Even though this change only occurred around 5 years ago, it is hard to remember what the game was like when you had to guess almost everything.

Another big change was that the concept of “snap shots” was introduced. This helped to add additional utility to many of the units in the game. It allowed heavy weapons to fire on the move, so heavy weapons with a high rate of fire were more useful more often.

The process of shooting at a target unit and wounding the target unit were generally unchanged.

However, another major change was brought about in the way that casualties were removed from the target unit. The big change was that casualties were now taken from models closest to the firing unit. Model placement within a unit became more important, as models with different wargear and character models had to be placed with care, lest they fall foul to enemy firepower. Models out of weapons range were allowed to be removed as casualties, models out of line of sight were not.

The Look Out, Sir rule was introduced in order to help characters survive enemy firepower. This took the form of a 4+ save for Sergeant-type characters, and independent characters got a 2+ save. This allowed players to pass on more “harmful” wounds to other members of the squad and to save important characters from harm. The addition of closest model wounding and Look Out Sir rolls made wound-tanking characters even more popular in 6th edition.

This allowed a character with improved toughness, armour save and/or invulnerable save to soak up wounds for an accompanying unit by being placed at the front of the unit. The character could soak up wounds that would shred the unit, using Look Out Sir rolls to pass on wounds too hazardous to attempt with the character.

This had the disadvantage of seriously slowing down gameplay under certain situations. Any player that has attended a tournament-type game, or even a casual game, will know the frustration when 20+ wounds have to be rolled individually due to the presence of a tanking character.



The effectiveness of cover saves was also reduced in 6th edition, as cover was far too effective in 5th edition 40k. The biggest change was that cover was generally reduced to a 5+ save, where a 4+ save had been more common in the last edition.

Going to ground was still permitted, the units that went to ground could still fire snap shots. This made it a tempting proposition for units with a high rate of fire and a low ballistic skill to go to grounds for increased cover saves, but still fire effectively. For example, Ork Lootas had little to lose from going to ground and snap firing.

In order to mitigate this, focus fire was introduced. This allowed you to target more vulnerable models with poorer cover saves at the risk of losing excess wounds.

In a similar vein, precision shots where now introduced for character models and certain weapons. A roll of a 6 to hit allowed the player to assign any wound caused to a specific enemy model. This allowed characters to try and take out heavy or special weapons troopers preferentially.

Weapon Types

Rapid fire weapons became even more effective in 6th edition. There was now no longer any penalty when moving and firing. This served to increase the effective range of most rapid fire weapons, making them very potent in the hands of the skilled infantry. Much like in the current edition, you could move and fire the weapon at full range or gain two shots at shorter range.

Salvo weapons were also introduced; weapons with a very high rate of fire if stationary, but less effective on the move.

Template and blast weapons could not snap fire, however, heavy weapons could. This made it possible for heavy weapons to be more effective on the move. These units were no longer limited to a purely stationery role, but could potentially move and still cause some damage.



The concept of overwatch fire was also be introduced, though this worked very differently to the rules seen in second edition. Units that were assaulted were now able to snap fire at the charging enemy unit.

The new changes to the shooting phase hit assault armies hard. Previously, you could remove casualties from the rear of a unit so as not to lose any range on the enemy. Now, you had to remove the closest models possibly increasing the distance to a target unit. Overwatch fire also made it more hazardous to charge into assault, with the potential that overwatch casualties could now result in a failed charge.

Seventh Edition (2014-current)

Like many phases in the game, 7th edition saw a refinement to the shooting phase rather than massive overhaul. These new rules sought to clarify certain rules issues that had occurred with previous editions of the game.

One such issue that underwent clarification was the order in which weapons are fired in the shooting phase. Previously, most players had assumed that all the weapons firing in a unit occurred simultaneously. As long as a weapon was in range at the start of the unit’s shooting, it was assumed that any casualties that took the weapon out of range would be unaffected.

However, 7th edition specified that shooting took place with one weapon type completely before moving onto other weapon types in the unit. This required players to carefully choose in which order their unit’s attacks would occur, as previous shooting could take certain weapon types out of range. The rules also specified that each weapon was not required to fire, in fact, players could choose not to fire with specific weapons if they so wished.

Another important clarification was that movement affected shooting on a model by model basis. Previously, every single member of a counted as moving if any member of the unit had done so. Now, however, with movement being determined on an individual basis, this allowed certain models in the unit to move to more favourable firing positions, whereas other models, such as those carrying heavy weapons, could remain stationary to fire at full effect.

Despite the clarifications, the ability of powerful independent characters to tank wounds for a unit was still in place. Again, this had the effect of sometimes slowing down game play during the shooting phase.

Looking to the Future

Interestingly, the most recent rumours from Games Workshop concerning 8th edition appear to be revisiting concepts from earlier editions of the game. Armour save modifiers are apparently going to be making a comeback in the next ruleset. While this is going to be an interesting development, I don’t think that such modifiers will be as powerful as they were in the second edition. These were often used in conjunction with To Hit modifiers, meaning that it was more difficult for shots to reach the target unit. Without to hit modifiers making a return, armour save modifiers would be more potent than they were in the second edition. Perhaps these types of modifiers will be restricted to more powerful weapons in the 41st millennium. I would assume that such armour save modifiers would be based on the strength of ranged weapons, making such modifiers easier to remember if you know the weapon’s strength. Otherwise, you will need to memorise the armour save modifier for each individual weapon, adding further complexity to the game.

Without a doubt, the shooting phase has seen many changes over the course of the last 5 editions, remaining one of the most powerful phases in the game. It will be interesting to see how this further changes in the next edition with the decrease in rules complexity that many players are anticipating will occur.

I think that most players would agree that the shooting phase has remained one of the most powerful phases in the current game. 7th edition has seen shooting-focused armies prosper under the current ruleset, whereas close combat-orientated armies have suffered, as they have done for several editions.


~So that is a brief history of the shooting phase in 40k. Which changes or modifications would you like to see in the new edition of the game?

  • Ryan Smyth

    terminator armour was 3+ on 2d6. not 2 on 2d6. you could loose a terminator to a gretchin’s gun.

    • Deacon Ix

      2+ if you had a mark of Khorn 🙂 but a double 1 was still a failure. (rule of 1)

  • Karru

    Personally I would like to see the power of shooting decreased greatly. Currently Shooting has now real downsides to it. You can move and shoot without any problems and the ranges are ridiculous in this edition. Then you have things like Overwatch and Snap Shots to boot. Meanwhile Assaulting is left completely in the dust.

    I’ve played a lot of 5th edition in the past few months and I noticed some very interesting things. The biggest was the ranged combat and how “tactical” it was. With Night Fighting making shooting at long distance very difficult as well as impossible in some cases, moving and shooting being an actual choice due to Rapid Fire Weapons and the lack of “ignores cover”. Then there was the “effectiveness” of shooting. Most weapons were your standard bolters or other line weapons, most heavy ordnance was expensive or rare. That was one of the reasons why Guard and GK became powerful because they started to get those in greater numbers and for relatively cheap.

    I really don’t care if it’s modifiers or just plain “you can’t shoot”, but something has to be done about moving and shooting. Shooting units need to have a downside. Currently they are perfect. Enemy closing in? Move away and shoot at them with full force. Enemy got too close? Shoot them some more with Overwatch.

    • Astmeister

      I agree with some of your points like inflationary use of “ignore cover” and such. However, I think it is will deserved that shooting is far superior to assault. Even nowadays shooting is the most effective thing in a real war. And we are talking about a game 40000 years in the future, where they have plasma rifles and such.

      • Karru

        I get your point, but my argument for that would be to say that Assaulting adds variance.

        While the game is mainly focused at shooting, assaulting can be used to supplement that. It’s the opposite of how AoS works. Most combat is done in Melee while Ranged units provide support.

        Also, there are entire armies that focus on melee. This is the core of their narrative as well. They should be compensated for lacking “amazing” shooting.

        • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

          This is why I’m optimistic about the possibility of the Initiative stat going away, and most rules actuating Initiative (Blind, Unwieldy, Concussive, Strikedown) being replaced by die modifiers and test-less versions for others. I also like the chances of point-blank shooting being an option, the way it is in AoS, allowing range-centric factions to avoid being neutralized by being locked in an assault.

          • Karru

            Personally I really don’t want to see Initiative go. Then again, they already “spilled the beans” on the new Assaulting mechanics regarding hit order. Evidently Charging units always hit first, which is something I’ve missed since 7th edition of Fantasy.

            My problem with point-blank shooting is that it takes away strategy. In a normal situation, you’d have to be careful regarding your army composition. If you want to make a gunline, go ahead, but you better be ready to defend it against possible distraction charges. Shooting shouldn’t be the overpowering weapon in the game. All armies have tools to defend themselves in Melee. Imperial Guard has Ogryns and Tau has Kroots to defend their gunlines.

            If one allows the gunline to be charged, you better be ready for some major casualties and lack of shooting. That has always been the weakness of ranged combatants, once the enemy is too close, swinging blades at your face in great numbers, you might have a hard time aiming that gun you are wielding, especially a cumbersome one.

          • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

            True, but if you aren’t using your Shooting Phase to get, say, 30 or so World Eaters off of your gun-line’s collective throat, you have problems. IMHO, the tactical dilemma of firing on the guys that just charged you vs the guys making a run for the nearest objective is a welcome bit of tension that’s missing from the current game.

          • TenDM

            It would be interesting if anything out of base contact with an enemy could shoot but not move, and could choose to pile out 1″ . Anything outside of 2″ of a model in combat could be shot at (ignoring any opposing models in that safety bubble. So you’d have your gun line firing at the back of the models or taking out stuff as they’re slowly devoured.
            Assault units would need a boost though. Maybe an extra pile in move at I10 when they charge to ensure they get into combat faster.

            I think that sort of stuff has the potential to add much more tactical depth than just tar pitting your opponent.

          • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

            The larger threat range and choice between standing to fight and falling back at the cost of not being able to do anything else as a unit, as you do in AOS, is enough to make protracted assaults viable as a neutralization strategy. I’m really keen on getting rid of Initiative, Pile-in moves, and inescapable tarpitting, as they slow the game down and limit what units can actually do over the course of a game.

          • No-one Special

            Shooting very much should be the overpowering weapon in the game. Gun beats sword because gun has greater range.
            Assaulting is used when the enemy is too dug in/concelaed to shift them through shooting alone, or to tie up dangerous units to prevent them from acting.

      • nurglitch

        Having stuff like Ignores Cover and so on being graded rather than flat (like how FNP is a basic 5+ but can be anything from 2+ to 6 should it need to be balanced out) would be grand. Ditto treating AP vs Sv like S v T would make life simple.

      • euansmith

        From what I understand. artillery is the most effective thing in real war 😉

        However, short of blowing the enemy to bits with artillery, the only really effective way to win a battle is via close assault.

        I think that the difference between “real war” and 40k is that in the grim darkness of the future, there is no suppression rule.

        In the real world, the attacking side intends to out number the defenders. They then divide their forces in to a suppression group and an assault group.

        The suppression group, with any available sustained fire weapons, hammers the bejesus out of the target to suppress it. They try to keep the target pinned down, limit their fire and hopefully distract them from the assault group.

        Once the assault group is in range, the suppression group stops firing to allow the assault group to charge in with bayonets, grenades, boots and teeth.

        So, to make assault work in 40k, I think we need a suppression mechanism.

    • Ryan Miller

      Currently, heavies can only snapfire if moved, and salvo weapons are #/#, firing the lowest number at half range. Normal assault weapons, like bolters, eldar catapults, etc(m4/m16/ar15 irl equiv) can be fired with no penelty by a trained individual, while running through a barrage of artillery. Overwatch only works if you are charged and you are snapsooting. I see no trouble with this.

    • No-one Special

      Overwatch really isn’t that powerful, and is less effective the better the troop is as it’s a flat value rather than a modifier – so it benefits horde type troop which are typically the assault based armies anyway (except IG, but nobody is complaining they’re OP).
      Assault players always conveniently forget you get to attack in both players turns in CC, shooting does not. The problem is getting there. Overwatch was necessary because you have to give a shooting unit at least a few turns to act before they are assaulted and destroyed, it’s why first turn charges are not allowed either.
      The real reason this is all a problem at all is distance. 40k models move much too far for the ranges invloved and the size of the boards they play on – it’s all out of whack.
      The return of the movement stat (and likely 4″ moves again) will return some of the usefulness of fast moving assault troops, and coupled with reworked transport rules should see an improvement in assaulting units fortunes – but they should still be used in tandem with other units, they don’t have a right to autimatically defeat whoever they charge.
      Overwatch in itself is fine – there are some units you shouldn’t charge because it’s suicide, and that is how it should be.

      • Karru

        Actually, Overwatch is pretty powerful due to how wound allocation works. I have seen way too many charges fail due to losing that one or two models that were critical for a successful charge. The other problem is the random charge distance. Assaulting is extremely unreliable compared to shooting.

        I mean, Shooting goes like this:

        Pick a target,
        Check for range,
        If not in range, choose another target,
        Then shoot at the target,
        Repeat in each shooting phase.

        Assaulting in comparison:

        Pick a target,
        Start moving towards the target,
        Attempt to charge target,
        Survive the received fire,
        Check if you are still in range,
        Try to get as many models as you can into CC,
        Fight in Close Combat,
        Take the enemy hits back.

        The problem with shooting is that it’s way too reliable and has little to no downsides. Assaulting units do not automatically wipe the unit they come in contact with. They still need to roll to hit and wound and the opponent has to fail their saves. If you didn’t kill everyone, you have to take some more hits, if you got to swing first that is.

        Yes, you get to attack in both phases, but you seem to forget that shooting units can shoot every turn, while assaulting units can only hit something once they reach their target. That means that the assaulting unit has to survive through 2-3 turns of constant shooting before it can do any damage. In turn, you might be able to do 2 rounds of melee before you die, if you get into CC that is.

        The key problem is the amount of factors that have to go perfectly in order to pull off an Assault right now is insane. You have to reach your target, you have to successfully roll the charge distance that can be 2″ or 12″ (as well as -3″ for terrain) and then you have to, in the worst case, survive two back to back rounds of damage before you can even swing. Meanwhile the unit that you charged had to only survive your assault that turn, which was a single round of damage.

        • No-one Special

          I will agree with you on charge distance – personally I would change it to movement plus D6 to narrow the variation and guarantee at least some distance, but the rest of your reply is extremely biased.
          You’ve given the most simple of steps for a shooting phase and then added in convoluted situational steps for assault (change target? That’s not a step, it’s a player choice).

          To try and address as many of your points as possible:

          No, Overwatch isn’t powerful. Hitting on 6’s is nothing to be scared about – the distance thing I’ve already covered, but that’s not a problem with the Overwatch rules

          Shooting does have a downside, a big one – cover saves. Most cover people are using (and GW are selling) gets you a 4+ save, halving all damage outside of ignores cover weapons – which tend to either have a not great AP value or are rare on larger more powerful blasts.

          I can’t believe you actually said assaulting units “still need to roll to hit and wound and the opponent has to fail their saves” – what is it shooting units do?

          Complaining about attacks back is a bit of a non-point. The return attacks from a ‘shooty’ aren’t going to be much to fear, as a dedicated CC unit will more than outmatch them in terms of attacks per model and equipment – and you’ve ignored the fact CC units can shoot on the way in too.

          I haven’t forgotten shooting units can shoot every turn – you just aren’t recognising they lose all these advantages you say they have once they’re engaged in turn 2 or 3 (yes, that’s as soon as one third of the game, which can be the equivalent of the shooting unis only having one turn of shooting if the they didn’t go first). Then the CC unit gets to attack in both phases in a situation where they should outmatch their opponents, while the shooty units is basically tied up indefinitely, unable to shoot and unable to beat a unit better equipped for combat. It evens out.

          Why does the CC unit die? If you’ve planned it right you should either be attacking a unit that you can beat, or have backup arriving once the shooting units are tied up and can’t shoot.

          Assault units have numerous special rules that mitigate the distance penalty for cover – Move through cover, rolling more and dice and picking the highest for things like Jump packs etc.

          You’ve almost made this comparison in a one vs one situation on an empty board –
          which of course suits a shooty unit. Assault units can use the terrain, appear in unexpected places, have friendly units soften up targets for them etc etc. It’s as you’re making it out to be.
          When i’m assaulting, my units are hiding behind cover to either protect them completely, or at least shield them from the worst of it – picking their moment to attack if they see an opening. As i said before, they don’t have a right to just sweep every unit they charge, they still need to be used carefully alongside other units.

          • TenDM

            Most of what you’re saying it right, but I think you’re over valuing terrain. There’s no official terrain layout or even a system for placement, which makes it extremely random. The official rule is ‘there is no rule, figure it out yourself’ so you can’t rely on good terrain at all.
            If you get to play a part in placing it and you place it well it’s considered cheating. If you don’t place it well you get shredded in the shooting phase.

            I really wish White Dwarf would run a regular column where they print official terrain configurations. Just a map of a table with blobs saying ‘Impassable’ or ‘Dangerous’ showing you where to put your stuff and how to classify it. Sort of like the deployment maps they have for missions.

          • No-one Special

            Well, yes, but that’s not an issue with the rules as such, it’s the morality of terrain placement. When setting up a board I always try to base it on something the two sides would actually be fighting over, an important building or depo, a cross roads, high ground etc. Granted tournament play is a separate issue, but that’s down to the organisers to sort out, and you can’t change a games rules because tournament tables lack the necessary level of terrain. The the tail wagging the dog.
            One thing i’ve found which works wonders for board balance is to never have the road layout at a right angle to the board edges and this prevents long killing fields. It gives each player a point they can cross the road near their deployment zone that is in cover, and it stops gun lines just lining up in the buildings alongide a road running the length of the board.
            GW’s gaming boards are terrible for this (FW’s are a bit better), and as much as I understand it can’t be helped for production purposes, it makes things a lot worse.

      • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

        First-turn charges are perfectly legal. They also happen to be difficult to pull off outside of Bike/Beast/Cav-heavy armies.

    • euansmith

      The combination of “no assault from vehicles” and “Overwatch” seems like a double snub to melee armies. I think it should be either one or the other.

      In effect, if the melee squad walks across the field, the shooting squad gets to effectively “Overwatch” them in every one of the shooter’s shooting phases.

      If the melee squad disembarks and cannot charge, then the shooting squad gets to “Overwatch” them in the shooter’s subsequent shooting phase.

      Allowing the shooters to hammer a walking target or a disembarked target, and then Overwatch them in the melee unit’s charging phase just seems too much to me.

      • Karru

        Exactly. This and the nerf to disembarking, vehicles that moved over 6″ cannot be disembarked, made most assault oriented armies basically worthless.

        Personally I found that 5th edition had a “perfect” balance between the two. The biggest problems usually came from the wound allocation shenanigans but most armies didn’t have those.

      • TenDM

        I’m a fan of Overwatch in theory, but if you’re paying for a dedicated melee unit you should be getting baked in Ignores Overwatch. Either that or only dedicated gunline units or units that haven’t moved, ran or fired heavy weapons can Overwatch.

        • euansmith

          My poorly made point is that shooting units effectively get overwatch without having to include the overwatch rule; so long as assault units can’t assault from disembarking or outflanking or deepstriking, shooty units get a round of shooting at them anyway.

          So, to me, the rules should either have overwatch and assaulting from vehicles/outflanking/deepstriking, or no overwatch and no assaulting from vehicles/outflanking/deepstriking. 😉

          You point about limiting Overwatch is a nice one, as rules that generate choices are good for gaming. Like the old Overwatch rule, where you traded shooting in your own phase for overwatching in the enemy phase, was a good mechanism.

          • No-one Special

            You would then have to make Overwatch much much better than hitting on 6’s to compensate for assaulting out of any vehicle.
            How many turns do you think it reasonable for a shooting unit to be able to fire for before being engagaed and essentially nullfied? Letting units assault from drop pods etc means they might not even get to shoot – and for everything else it’s a return to rhino rush.
            If overwatch was better and the transports/rules themselves were way more expensive it could maybe work, but Drop Pods are a significant problem with their turn 1 shennanigans – as they can’t be ignored when setting the rules for transports.

          • TenDM

            Yeah, I see what you mean but I think Warhammer has always had a problem with rules like that because as @disqus_niV5KEdftS:disqus points out they always break those rules with turn one stuff, and they usually do that within the first few books.
            You’re 100% right that both or neither is the way to do it, but if they’re not going to stick to that then it’s just going to result in core rules that weren’t built to handle the events taking place.

  • Puddinhead Wilson

    In AOS units in combat can shoot and be shot at.

    Will that be allowed in 8th Edition 40k?

    • Matthew Pomeroy

      Gawd I hope not

  • No-one Special

    “close combat-orientated armies have suffered, as they have done for several editions”
    This sentence should be qualified with an additional paragraph detailing that this was a necessary swing as a result of 5th edition 40k – which had led to hugely overpowered assault armies that any novice could run/drive/fly/hop/skip/jump across the board and chop up whatever he found on the other side with minimal difficulty.
    6th edition started pulling it back towards centre, and 7th edition was an attempt to return 40k to a primarily shooting focussed game, with most armies having to use assault units in combination with shooting units to achieve good results.
    Many critics of this change still yearn for a return to the 5th edition way of playing.
    However, this swing in favour of shooting armies has been exacerbated by the somewhat inferior codexs of the most assault focussed armies (Orks, Nids etc.).
    That’s not to say 7th was perfect by any means (the transport rules could do with looking at for sure), but this complaining about poor assault armies needing a break is as much to do with their codex’s problems than the core rules themselves.
    40k currently is, and should be, a primarily shooting focussed game – assault units do not have some sort of right to charge any unit without thought with an expectation to win. Targets should be selected carefully based on their weaknesses and softened up if need to be, it’s called tactics.

    • ZeeLobby

      I mean you could argue that the swing wasn’t really necessary, they could have just shut the door, not swung it the other way. It went from combat good, shooting ok to combat impossible, shooting godly, haha. Outside of some pretty specific builds in 3rd – 5th the rest of the game was OK. Heck there were even some shooting heavy builds like leaf blower and dual lash. Now you have entire factions that can blow others off the table by turn 2.

      • No-one Special

        GW has a long history of swinging back and forth between extremes when it tries to fix problems – but in this instance I would actually say it was needed more or less.
        Gun beats sword and has done for a long long time. Assault units have a place, but they should be a tool for a specific job, not a generic beat stick which I see so many people pining for a return too. The pure assault armies like Nids etc. need help within their codex, otherwise any boost to assaulting within the rules helps other to beat them as much as it helps them to beat other armies.

    • Karru

      Which they did in 5th edition. Now only Deathstar units will survive and do something in Assaults. Even the “most terrifying” assault unit, Ork Boys, are worthless in this edition. Only way to get them into CC is using Trukks. That means you are forced to take 12 model units at best. From those 12 boys, if you are lucky, 9-10 will make it to CC. From there, they will lose further 3-5 before they can even swing. That basically leaves you with 4-7 Boys to swing, which is hardly enough to kill even a Tactical Squad.

      Also, to give you a comment regarding the “Assault units now requiring to use tactics in order to be effective”, I’d like to point out that they made Shooting units way more powerful in order to achieve that. Currently you have no need for Melee units, you can just spam extremely powerful guns with Ignores Cover galore and just laugh as you wipe out your opponent in 2 turns. How is that more “tactical” compared to Assault armies in 5th edition?

      • No-one Special

        Orks and their Trukks transport capacity is a codex problem, not a rules problem – exactly as I said.
        The points equivalent of a base 10 man Tac squad with no upgrades whatsoever is a full squad of 12 boys with 4+ saves in a Trukk. If they barely kill the Tac squad as you say, what’s the problem?

        Why should you need melee units? It’s a choice. Personally I’d always have one as a counter charge unit, or to dig a unit out of a strong piece of cover.

        Ignoring cover saves galore is a very convenient thing to say, but generally these weapons are flame based with an AP of 5 (which is why i’d maintain the heavy armour upgrade on the orks is necessary), and being short ranged you can outrange them with your assault distance in a trukk (6+6+2D6 with a re-roll).

        Yes, the Orks codex isn’t particularly good and yes, other codex’s have problems and need to be improved to help them compete, but this wholescale complaining that assault armies should be able to get into assault easily without being shot at by units with guns is a bit ridiculous.
        The concept of overwatch is fine, as is the concept of giving ranged units time to shoot while assault units close the distance.
        I think the transport rules are the key, either letting them move further and disembark or allowing assaulting out of non-assault vehicles (but with significant penalties) – but they would then have to be much more expensive. This is probably a good thing as everyone knows Rhino spam is already a problem.

    • TenDM

      I think the problem is they’ve never considered this with faction design in terms of lore or gameplay. So we’ve got entire factors that are incompatible with a shooting based game.

      There needs to be a fundamental change to assault, but I have no idea what it is. Perhaps make assault focused units more survivable outside of combat, but all enemy models have an optional automatic Hit and Run mechanic. They sacrifice their close combat attacks in the preceding turn, and on their turn they have to move at least half your units movement range away to disengage, but they can act like normal.

      I don’t think that would work, but I think it needs more than a swing or some stat changes. It needs to redefine the assault phase so that it’s not either die turn two or unstoppable alpha strike.

  • eMtoN

    This was a good read. Thanks

    I started playing in 5th and it’s good to know how the game worked from even before that. The evolution makes sense, but it has seriously complicated the game.