Let’s talk about how 8th Edition destroyed the role of transports.
Over the last weekend, I had the pleasure to hang out with one of our authors, Black Blow Fly who was in town. He, myself, and Larry were out getting drinks and naturally talking about 40K. For those of you that don’t know Steve (BlackBlowFly) is something of an Apostle of Cawl, that is to say; he’s a big pusher of Primaris Marines. While talking about them, Steve repeated a line I’ve heard over and over again from players; I wish they had a good cheap transport. Thinking about I had to ask him why he felt this would fix them. After all, what do they need a transport for anyways, few other armies that have them actually use them these days. This got me thinking about how 8th Edition has made transports obsolete. Let’s take a look at why that is.
A Rocky History
Can you spot the traitor Rhino?
Transports, and vehicles in general, have always been tricky. They’ve gone up and down in power over the various editions. Who here remembers the old Rhino Rush armies of days past? Other editions have seen them reduced in importance and pliability. Rarely have I seen them reduced as far as they have been in 8th. And while not all the changes that have rendered transports bad come from 8th, they have all come together in 8th to make them horrible.
Why They Were Good: Shooting
To understand why transports are bad we have to first understand why they were good. Two things made transports useful, they helped you get into combat faster, and they protected while you moved into range. For several editions, 40K was dominated by a couple of simple bits of math. The first deals with shooting.
Most shooting infantry in the game is equipped with rapid-fire weapons with either a 24 or 30-inch range. At half range, these weapons can fire twice. Now for several editions of the game moving a unit that had rapid-fire weapons meant they could only fire at half range. Since you started outside of 24 inches from the enemy that meant you had to spend two turns moving at 6 inches a turn, and getting shot, to bring your rapid-fire weapons into close range. While moving you could not shoot back. Transports, however, allowed you to get around this. Not only would they protect you as you moved up but they could reduce the turns you’d spending moving and not shooting.
Why They Were Good: Assault
The 2nd bit of math has to do with assault. For several editions assault armies had a simple bit of inexplicable math to get around. You started more than 24 inches away from the enemy. Infantry moved at 6 inches a turn and could charge another 6. This meant an infantry force had to spend 4 turns walking across the table before it could assault. Once rules like running or advancing came around this lowered the walking to on average 3 turns, still too long. Transports, however, with their move of 12 inches could get you across the table much faster, normally allowing for a turn 2 assault and some protection while you crossed that table. But all this changed (when the Fire Nation attacked?)
Shooting Got Longer Ranged
One of the key changes we’ve seen in the game, that’s culminated in 8th is how ranges have increased, and firepower has grown more mobile. Rapid fire weapon rules changed so that units could still fire out to their full range when moving. In 8th the old rule that Heavy Weapons couldn’t move and fire, also went away, changing to a mere minus one to hit. Now a unit advancing across the table, that in prior editions couldn’t shoot at the enemy at all, can fire just the same as them, with only a -1 to hit on their heavy weapon. It’s no longer a choice between moving to get closer or to a better position and shooting; you can now do both.
This means that rather than protecting you on turns you couldn’t shoot, being in a transport just means you can’t shoot. Shooting, killing, is how you win at 40K. With most game be decided on the first two turns these days keeping key units from shooting when they could be is not how you win. You’ve also got lots of faction rules out there that either give your units extra range or let them advance and fire, thus making firepower even more mobile.
Assault Ranges Got Longer
Remember how I said in the past units moved 6 and assault 6? Well, all that has changed. Now units move their base speed (often six but not always). But all units can also now advance a d6 and now charge 2d6 inches. This means even a basic unit with a little luck (or a re-roll) Can move and advance on turn 1 and charge on turn 2. This is as fast as a transport can do it. While the transport still may offer some protection, it doesn’t add much speed.
Stratagems Replaced Transports For Assault Units
The biggest change that 8th has brought however is stratagems. Most of the key assault units in the game currently get there thanks to stratagems. Most armies have access to strats that either let their forces Deep Strike or infiltrate to set up close to the enemy. Using these, assault units can cross the board without letting the enemy get a chance to shoot at them and get off turn one or two assaults. Some armies also have ways of redeploying units on turn one to get charges off. All of these remove the need for transports at all.
The Dead Unit
Looking back on the lists we are seeing in tournaments I’m just not seeing people taking transports for purpose of transporting things. Rhinos, Chimeras, etc. are vanishing. The only times I’m seeing transports being taken is for use as cheap weapon platforms. Vemons, for instance, are very popular right now, but people don’t take them to get units places. They take them because they are annoying to kill and pack a punch. As a bonus, units inside them can shoot out. In this case, the transported unit is more of an upgrade for the Venom, then the Venom is an upgrade for the unit. With those exceptions transports are dead in 40K. In particular Drop Pods, whose only point was to be a quick transport have been banished from the table top.
Even More Reasons
In truth, I haven’t even covered all the reason transports got worse, such as:
- The unified stat-line means anything can kill a transport now.
- Auras, Stratagems, Relics, etc. Only work if your unit is on the table, being in a transport wastes all these upgrades.
- Vehicles can get tied up in combat now, so enemy units can make moving your transports harder than in the past.
And more. The long and short of it is that 8th has killed transports as anything other than weapon platforms. This is too bad as transports always added a nice bit of depth to the game. They used to be the way to overcome some tactical issues a commander could be faced with. The removal of those issues has made the game poorer in my opinion.
Let us know what you think of transports in 8th Edition, down in the comments!