Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Warhammer 40k 6th Edition: The View From the Tabletop

This weekend Games Workshop released the latest instalment of their most popular gaming system: Warhammer 40,000 (40k). Set in the dystopian future (where there is only war) 40k is an entire universe of dark fantasy and has over 25 years of gaming and fictional tradition behind it. It is also bloody fun to play. I was away from Nottingham (my current home) on Saturday so I missed the midnight release at Warhammer World (my old place of work).
Pictured: More hobby hardcore than YOUR MIND HAS ROOM FOR
Instead I popped down to GW Leamington Spa for 10AM to join the modest queue of lads waiting to pick up their copy of 40k 6th edition. Once I had fought my way to the front and purchased it for myself I took it back to my girlfriend's place (I totally have a new one now, so that's cool), made a coffee and sat down to have a read. This post records my initial feelings and some additional research I've done (played some games with some mates). and while I did work for GW some time ago you can trust me not to give you the hobby store hustle, everything isn't sugar and rainbows and I'm not trying to sell anything (I'm looking at you GW YouTube channel).

DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA and Other Gun Sounds

When it comes to casual gaming I tend to use Tau, mainly because they combine the twin disciplines of giant robots and shooty death kill that I've always loved about Science Fiction
Sure you can melt us if you get within 6 inches. If you get there
As a result I spend a lot of time apologising to opponents or running away (it's ironically quite similar to my teenage love life). Dedicated shooting armies rarely worked well for me - and many other people - in 5th ed because close combat is simply so brutal. If anything gets within 6 inches of my lines I'm dead and they almost always catch me, Dark Eldar usually catch me before I can move. 6th edition has added a few neat shooting rules that make ranged units a bit more handy in close quarters.


Snapshots allow you to fire in situations where you previously wouldn't be able to (at a ballistic skill of 1). A good example of this is moving and firing heavy weapons; sure you're only hitting on a roll of 6 but imagine five space marines getting to move and shoot with heavy bolters (15 shots) at maximum range while repositioning as opposed to not shooting at all. That's one hell of a difference.


This word has been around in 40k for decades but in 6th edition its essentially a stand and shoot reaction to being assaulted. If the enemy charges one of your units you get the opportunity to shoot at them as they charge (using snapshots). Furthermore flamers can always make an overwatch shooting defence making any assault on an enemy unit more risky. In practice this doesn't make a huge amount of difference but the threat of lucky rolling ruining a well planned charge is enough to put alot of intelligent players off wrecking your shit.
This looks bad but there was five berzerkers when the charge started

General Tweeks

Charging is rolled on 2d6 now and isn't simply 6" of charge range meaning a fluffed charge roll is a free round of shooting for you (overwatch is resolved before charging) and wounds are now allocated to the closest enemy model in both shooting and close combat so clever deployment can save special weapons bearers.

Cut and Thrust

Charges being rolled on 2d6 can result in a maximum charge range of a whopping 12" and jump pack units can re-roll their first result if they don't like it so don't think 6th ed. is all about shooting. Assault specific armies can also exploit the 'wounds are allocated to the front' rule by favoring misdirection and flank charges. 

Can Opening

Melee weapons now have AP values and generalised special weapons of their own making them all the more deadly against tanks; Power Axe's for example give the bearer +1 strength (S) and have an AP value of 2. The new rules for vehicle damage means that AP2 weapons infer a +1 bonus on the vehicle damage table and the hits are still resolved against the rear armour of the vehicle. Ouch!

Fire in the Hole!

Grenades have seen a revamp as well allowing you to throw one of them in the shooting phase as an assault weapon. Krak grenades for example have a range of 8", are S6 and AP4 and have a small blast template AoE. This should soften enemy units up for close quarters butchery (if they don't scatter onto your own men).

Tracked Fury

Vehicles have seen some major changes in 6th ed with the addition of hull points (loose one for every glancing and penetrating hit, 0 means your tank is wrecked) and a tweaked damage table. Also AP 1 weapons now add 2 when rolling on the damage table and AP 2 gives +1 so they are much more fragile. In return however weapon destroyed results are now randomised not decided by the attacker. This means that main battle tanks like the Leman Russ are less likely to get reduced to a big waste's of points on turn 1 due to lucky shooting.
I call this one the One Pump Chump

Zoom of Doom

Flyers now have their own dedicated rules which include zooming, a movement which allows them to move between 18" (combat speed) and 36" (cruising speed), fire upto 4 of their weapons at full BS and forces all shots fired at them to be resolved as snap shots. Wat. Arial cavalry Guard seems even more attractive!

Terrifying Terrain

Some interesting changes in battlefield terrain this edition include the ability to include fortifications (artificial terrain pieces like Bunkers) in your army list, interactive destructible buildings and mysterious terrain which can hurt or heal your units. Is that mysterious river Hyperslime (unit has feel no pain but must take leadership tests to move or shoot) or lava? (dangerous terrain, immobilised vehicles immobilised in it are wrecked). Do you really want to find out?

Allying for A Win

6th edition includes an alliance chart which allows you to mix units from different codexs in with your army as long as you have an equivalent choice in your main army (one troop choice for each allied troop choice etc). This seems cool and fun but a bit broken. Would you want to play against a Grey Knights army with a Leman Russ squadron or Earthshaker battery on the back row? Or an Imperial Guard force packing a detachment of Sanguinary Guard?

A Model of Character and Distinction

Characters have a whole host of new special rules in 6th edition:
  • They can target specific models in units with close combat and shooting attacks.
  • They can issue challenges to other units to draw out other characters just like in Warhammer Fantasy.
  • They can be saved by 'look out sir!' moves just like in Warhammer Fantasy. 
  • One specific character can be named the Warlord of your army giving them extra special rules, some of which are cheesy as hell. A good example is the Immovable Object personal trait which makes them a scoring unit. It would have been nice to see these bonuses balanced by downsides.

What's the Big Picture?

So what's the verdict? Is 6th ed a triumph or tragedy? I'd say that aside from some minor broken rules it's been more fun, less clunky and more narrative and realistic feeling to play than 5th edition and I haven't even touched on the new psychic powers list or how good blowing up a Fortress of Redemption feels yet. It feels good. So Good
This good.

Stay Crunchy Internet

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