Let’s talk about some ways we could make vehicles better.
8th Edition has its strengths and weaknesses. It’s done a lot to attempt to simplify the game and streamline things. This has benefited some things and hurt others. In general 8th Edition has not been an excellent edition for vehicles, as changes to rules have negatively impacted their performance and left them feeling a little lackluster. While there are exceptions to these rules, in general, your average vehicle is not in a great place. Let’s talk about a few ways to fix them.
The problem with vehicles tends to be twofold. First, they are kind of bad. Vehicles lost every rule that made them unique in the past (various protections, or immunities to many attacks) while keeping only a few that hurt them (unable to go up levels, etc.). They can’t move and fire without penalty, they can now be damaged by everyone (made worse by the prevalence of +1 to wound abilities), and they don’t carry significantly better weapons than other units. In general, they are neither particularly more killy nor survivable than other units in the game. However, since most of them focus on shooting attacks and have next to no ability to fight in combat, they are very vulnerable to being tied up in combat and prevented from shooting. There are some other issues, but those are the main ones.
The most hated tank in 40K.
The “good” vehicles in the game all share a few traits. In general, they tend to have some ability to leave combat and still shoot, either the Fly keyword or something like Titanic. Many of them also can ignore penalties to move and shoot. The only transports regularly seen are those that allow models inside to shoot out. A -1 to be hit or just being cheap are other markings of a proper vehicle.
The second problem with vehicles is that they are merely kind of boring now. Having lost most of the rules that made them unique, they are simply another unit with high toughness. Vehicles, with the exception of flyers, don’t add anything special or different to the game. So let’s take a look at some options for rules that could change this up.
While I’m talking about vehicles in generally here, a lot of what I’m describing applies most accurately to what we would call tanks. That is heavy tracked, wheeled, or grav, land vehicles. Other types of vehicles, Walkers and Flys, and some odds and ends, thematically might work differently. I’d most likely make a new keyword, Tank, that most changes are tied too and give it to the units I think the rules should affect. (For instance, you most likely don’t want Knights benefited from anything that makes vehicles better.)
Bring Back Facings: Option 1
It wasn’t that complicated
In past editions vehicles had facings, front, sides and rear. Each of these had different armors values. Generally front armor was the hardest to hurt, side armor was weaker and rear the weakest. While this added a layer of complexity to the game it also added realism and some tactics. Players had to be careful about where their models were facing, and smart maneuvering could really pay off in letting you take down enemy units. Now I think a simplified version of these rules could be a big bonus for the game.
An easy way to implement this would be to give vehicles a front and a rear. Attacks coming from in front of the tank (draw a simple line in front of it) hit the front, and other attacks hit the rear. Just two facings and keep it simple. One idea I’ve heard is to have any attack that hits the rear get a +1 to wound, giving it a nice buff to damage and giving you a reason to flank enemy units.
Bring Back Facings: Option 2
Now while the first option does make tanks a little more interesting it also makes them worse. An idea I like better is a slight variation on the first one. Attacks hitting the “front” of the tank get a -1 to wound. This has the same effect of making the sides more vulnerable, but actually makes tanks better. Their solid front army is hard to penetrate and can shrug off attacks. In many cases it means small arms can’t hurt a tank at all from the front, which is OK. It means small arms, lasguns, bolters etc. can still wound a tank, they just have to actually maneuver to do so. I think this change would both make tanks a lot more interesting and better, without adding a whole ton of extra rules.
Bring Back Facings: Option 3
Now the third option would be to go whole hog on the facings and bring back front side and rear. You don’t necessarily have to keep the old cross, maybe there is a simpler way of determining facing. If you did this I’d make different rules for each facing. If attack the front you get a -1 to wound. If you attack the sides you get normal. If you attack the rear and the D of your weapon is greater than 1, you do double damage. This gives you big rewards for getting behind a vehicle, especially with heavy anti-tank weapons. Suddenly your lascannon CAN one-shot a tank if you play it right. This would make tanks much more dynamic. Note: I would have these rules only apply to shooting.
More Mobile Tanks
Tanks have a mobility issue, and there are a few ways to fix it. An easy fix would be to allow all vehicles to ignore the -1 to move and shoot. While this would be nice, I think it could take away from the special tanks, like those with Machine Spirit, who get to do this now. Another option would be to allow all tanks to leave combat and still fire. While this would be a big boost it would make some tanks that can do this already, feel less special.
I think a better way to help make tanks both more interesting and more mobile is to reward them for moving. You can do this by bringing back a version of an old rule. I’d make a rule that says if a tank moved more than half of its maximum movement in the prior turn, it takes a -1 to be hit. You could even go father and say that in combat it can only be hit on a roll of a 6+. This creates some attractive options. It adds a level of realism; fast-moving vehicles are harder to hit than one standing still. It also gives a player real choices, do I sit still with my tank and take accurate shots, or do I move with it and make it harder to kill? That’s a real choice, and vehicles with abilities like the machine spirit would suddenly get a lot better.
Blasts from the past
A few other ideas to look at would be:
- Ramming attacks, charging vehicles do mortal wounds.
- Making it extra risky to charge a tank, maybe attack rolls of 1 do mortal wounds to you as you slip under the treads?
- Just letting all tanks that don’t move fire twice. Bam, easy.
- Invulnerable saves for moving fast,
- Point drops across the bored.
And others. The point is, I think there are some pretty simple ways we can both make tanks better and more interesting.
Let us know how you would fix tanks, down in the comments!