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Warhammer 40K Op Ed: Making Leadership Matter

6 Minute Read
Dec 31
The veterans among us may recall a time when Leadership in 40k actually mattered. Read on to see what can be done about this! The Vets among us may recall a time. A time when gas was cheap. A time when politicians were honest, when children listened to their parents, when the news was reasonable, and when Leadership in 40k actually mattered. Alas, such times have passed us by, and we find ourselves instead in today’s times. Read on to see what can be done about this! A guest article by Faithrun

Sometimes, a retrograde advance is the right call to make

The idea of Leadership, Morale, and units panicking has been in 40K since its inception. The days of Rouge Trader had rules for units routing, running, and rallying. This trend was continued up through 7th edition, with the peak of rules in 4th and slowly cutting them back from there. There was a differentiation between Morale, breaking and running, and Leadership, which was used for a variety of other scenarios as detailed in that edition. One example of a Leadership test was pinning tests – seeing if a unit took cover from incoming fire etc. Leadership was used for everything from picking targets to shoot at to losing hand to hand combats to suffering the ill effects of being in a transport when it exploded. Without going into a full history of the different ways the Leadership characteristic has been implemented over the editions, I wanted to take a look at how 8th is utilizing it. Or rather, under utilizing it. When 8th edition first dropped it was geared towards simplifying and streamlining the game. To that effect Leadership was relegated to only the Morale phase and any psychic powers that may directly key off it.
The Formula I use to calculate this, when it is even necessary, is # slain + d6 – LD. So, if you lose 3 Marines (LD 8), and roll a 6 on the die, the it 3+6 – 8 = 1 model runs.
While this rule, in and of itself, seems to lend to a different way of doing damage to an enemy unit, in reality it amounts to very little. Most armies that want to run large units, and would therefore be susceptible to it, have relatively easy ways to bypass Morale tests or limit their impact. This amounts to the Morale aspect of the game being more or less irrelevant. Many items, warlord traits, relics in almost every codex have a way to negatively impact enemy leadership. And, due to the myriad of ways to ignore this, these choices are relegated to the bottom of the pile. So, how can this be addressed, without making it overpowered? Anyone who recalls sweeping advances in 4th edition will know what I mean. I have a few ideas to share. In many of them I will refer to a Leadership (LD) test. This is the idea of rolling 2d6, and wanting to get equal or lower than the LD value of the highest in the unit. So, a unit of Marines would be LD 8 whilst their Sargent is alive and LD 7 if he is not, before any modifiers. A roll of 8 or less on 2d6 would see that unit pass the test, while a 9+ would see them fail.
  • Prior to 8th edition, a lot of units would tag a unit in combat to make themselves safe from enemy shooting. With the universal ability of units to fall back now, it makes it much, much harder for melee units to remain safe. It is for this reason that the concept of wrapping was invented to try and safeguard these units. It is a very powerful ability, and we are seeing other units such as wyches and white scars getting access to abilities to likewise prevent enemy units falling back.¬† What I propose is to make the falling back mechanic a LD test. This does several things – first it makes armies like Night Lords who can stack multiple LD penalties with multiple units want to gang up on a unit. Second, it gives melee units a chance to not have a unit they just tagged fall out from under them.
  • There used to be a mechanic called pinned, which could apply in a variety of situations. One of the ones that really made sense to me was when a transport blew up from under them they could get pinned. My thought is when a transport is destroyed, on a failed LD test, the unit has it’s move, advance, and charge rolls halved, and are -1 to shoot in their next turn. This is coupled with the idea that a unit only suffers casualties if the transport explodes, not just destroyed. (Yes, that is two mechanics, and one not related to LD, but I feel if talking about assessing additional penalties to transported units, then the potential changes needs to be taken as a whole). This trade-off of less actual damage to a unit but for a possibility of that unit being shaken up should their ride die.
  • Last idea I have for making Leadership relevant again has to do with psychic test. A psyker may, once per phase, before casting or denying a power choose to push their connection with the Warp. They may immediately take a mortal wound and if they survive, take¬† a LD test. On a successful test, they get +1 to cast or deny the next power.

Army Examples

As a quick, but not exhaustive listing of Leadership items and effects not currently being used, and which if LD was made relevant, could find a place in the game: Space Marines Reivers, the Fearsome Aspect Successor Trait, the Fear Made Manifest warlord trait, and the Standard of the Emperor Ascendant relic banner – just to name a few Chaos Harrken Worldclaimer, Raptors, Icon of Despair, Night Lords Chapter Tactic, the Entropic Knell relic, and the Slaaanesh Powers Cacophonic Choir and Phantasmagoria. Imperial Guard The Regimental Standard War gear, Mordian Chapter Tactic, the Terrifying Visions psychic power and the Skull Mask of Acheron relic. Necrons Flayed ones, the Nightmare Shroud and Abyssal Staff relics. Aeldari Swooping Hawks and Bahharoth, Hemlock’s Mindshock Pods, Incubi and Drazhar, Phantasm Grenade Launchers and Hallucinogen Grenade Launchers, the Splintermind Drug, the Mantle of Agony ability from Power from Pain, the Biel-Tan, Silent Shroud, and Dark Creed Chapter Tactics, the Pray they don’t take you alive Stratagem and the Psychic powers Horrify, Mind War, and Shards of Light. Tyranids Locus, the Monstrous Bio-Horrors strat, the Horror and Psychic Scream powers, and the Infrasonic Roar relic. Orks Boss Snikrot and the Roar of Moark psychic power   I am sure there are many others and combinations of which I have not listed. The point is, this whole phase and aspect of the game is underutilized within 8th edition, and could add some interesting tactical tools to a canny general’s toolbox. These ideas need not all be implemented, but are just a few of the ones I have had rattling around in my head about how to make Leadership matter again. Take a look through your codex, at those oft-overlooked abilities and traits you have that influence LD and think what would make them worth taking. Thanks for reading, and happy Wargaming!  

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