I have played Warhammer 40K for a very long time. I’ve seen the rise and fall of armies through almost a decade of ever-changing warfare. Out of all the years that I’ve been playing 40K, I must say that 6th Ed. looks to be the most promising.
With the inclusion of Allies, the goal is to sell models and demote the aspects of competitive gaming. There’s obvious and broken combinations that are overwhelmingly powerful, but for fluff reasons they make perfect sense. Some combinations don’t really make sense and that’s perfectly fine too. It allows players to experiment and most importantly, it gives them the option to buy models from different armies. Who knows, if they play with them enough, maybe they’ll start another army. It always starts like that guys, you know this by now. First you buy a box of marines, promising yourself that you won’t buy another thing, then it’s a box of Terminators and soon you’re on your way to building a full company. I’ve been there, you’ve been there, and it’s clear that’s what GW wants us to do.
Aside from Allies, let’s talk about point ranges. It’s quite clear to me that 2K+ points is viewed as “no one cares”. You can take another FOC chart and you can expand your army to take 12 Troops, 6 FA, 6 Elites and 6 Heavies. If this doesn’t scream mini-apoc I don’t know what does. It’s crystal clear to me that the point range that GW wants us to play at is sub 2K points for standardized games. The most played meta around here hovers at the 2K point range and I’m pretty sure that’s going to change to 1999. I don’t mind playing smaller sized games, I actually love it. A lot of people might disagree with me saying that higher points games allows you to take more “toys” or “answer more problems”, but everyone that I’ve spoken to agrees that 6 Heavies is simply outrageous.
There are some rather questionable things in 6th Ed. that might raise some eyebrows. Night Fighting being everywhere is one of them, the randomness of terrain and the randomness of relics. Even charges are random, how fast you can get in grips with the enemy is now based on a 2d6 system. Psyker abilities and what powers they know are also random, and this is obviously something that ticks a lot of players off. The more I see this, the more I understand that GW is breaking away from the competitive scene. Warhammer was never meant to be a competitive game and it took me over 10 years to realize this. Just play the game, enjoy the rules and take it for what it is.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I want to talk about why 6th Ed. is a fantastic edition with all things considered. The first thing I want to talk about is directional damage. There’s a lot of articles out there screaming doom and gloom about all the different wound allocation things you can do with the new system. Sure, you can have mixed armor saves taking all the shots from an entire squad of guys. It’s painful to see someone like Draigo tanking a billion shots because he has 2+/3++, Eternal Warrior and FNP. You know what? It’s the player’s choice he can put Draigo in the front. It’s his choice that he’s allowing the leader of his army to actually lead his army from the front, and purposely put his Warlord in the front to soak up the damage. I think player options mean everything; allowing the player to do what he wants with his army is absolutely huge.
The better question you should ask yourself as a player who’s shooting down one of the hardest characters in the game is if you’re doing it right at all! This is a 3D game now guys, it took a hell of a long time for GW to make sense of TLoS from 5th, but I think they really got something going for them in 6th. The fact is that directions now matter for how you engage troops in firefights and in close combat. If you see Meltaguns form up on the left side of a wedge (left side, wedge pointing towards you), and you know they pose a threat to your mechanized forces, you should probably flank left and drop them first with concentrated fire. As a counterpoint, your opponent should see this coming, and he should deploy in a way to minimize damage to his valuable anti-tank guns. Take the example I presented above with Draigo. Now put him in a 300-esque scenario where Draigo and his Paladins have to hold a narrow front against an endless amount of Orks. The Orks cannot flank from his sides (imagine Draigo holding the line between two ruins) and the Draigowing player has tactical superiority. The Ork player has to charge from the front, eat Overwatch fire if he charges, and loses in a straight up firefight because Draigo in leading a wedge formation that offers superior defenses. What is this? Can this game really be that strategic? Absolutely.
Flanking, is a foreign concept for 40K players because there was no directional damage. Getting flanked in 40K means absolutely nothing in the last few editions because there was no reward. You get flanked in Fantasy and you’re probably going to lose combat horribly. For those familiar with Fantasy, 6th Ed. 40K is literally a chess game played out with guns. Super buff dude in front tanking all the shots? Flank from the sides. See a vulnerable spot where you can take out his meltaguns or plasma guns? Deploy troops from that direction and pick them off. See a chance where a basic tank shock can isolate a Sergeant so you can torrent him down? Do it. There’s literally a billion scenarios where good positioning of your guys will win you the game, and a billion other scenarios where a clever opponent can test your positioning skills. Too many times I’ve read about: I shot this and then charged in and lost combat and blah blah. What I want to read about is: I charged in, killed his meltaguns and Sergeant, and even though I lost combat, my opponent was unable to harm my mechanized forces with that unit for the rest of the game. That, is called strategy.
Speaking of which, there’s a thing in this game called Focus Fire now. I’m not sure how many of you have experimented with this, but it’s a fantastic rule that all players should do. In the last game I played, I saw 3 marines out of cover from a unit with my Ravager. The Ravager can only shoot 3 shots but each of them is a S8 AP2 Dark Lance that can eat any marine alive. I focus fired the 3 marines out of cover and my opponent had no choice but to pull the models (3 shots, 3 wounds, 3 dead marines, 1 of which is a melta). This new mechanic can be a mini-game on its own. I couldn’t believe the rules when I first read it and I employ every single one of you to study it to its core. Focus Fire should work hand in hand with directional damage so you can make the best out of your firefights. Being able to identify weak points in the enemy forces is what’s going to make a general strong. Deploying your troops with careful thought and preparation so your opponents can’t exploit your defenses will also make you strong. How you deploy in cover can mean victory or defeat. What is this? Can the Art of War be real?
I’m a strong advocate of superior gameplay, but what part of this makes it cinematic? Well, what’s actually happening on the tabletop is now happening in front of your very eyes. When you shoot from a desired angle, at a specific enemy, you are now rewarded with exactly that. As models die, they die from the angle they’re shot from, closest to the enemy first. I don’t know about you folks, but I’m a very literal kind of guy. When I do something on the table-top, I want it to make sense to me visually. Maybe that’s why I love the new directional system but hate how a Grot can hit a flying skimmer on 3+. You can’t win them all I guess.
That’s all I wanted to say for now guys. I want to you guys to grasp the concept of directional combat in all its glory and not some isolated vacuum of wound allocation. Could the rules for wound allocation been done better? Of course they can. The lesson to take away from this is that the game has changed, a lot. Personally, this is the most realistic form of table-top warfare that I’ve seen in a long time from GW. It makes sense to me visually and most importantly, mentally, as a gamer. I want to out-think and outsmart my enemies with perfectly angled flanks and focus fire and 6th Ed. gives me the ability to do so.