Monday, January 17, 2011

A grumble about 5th Ed. 40K

After playing Privateer Press' Warmachine and Spartan Games' Firestorm Armada, I can't help but look at GW games and question the game system.  As most of you dudes know, I'm a hobby veteran.  I've been playing 40K and WHFB for about 10 years now.  I've seen the progression of editions like the changing of seasons and that's never going to change.  Unlike newer gamers who's only played the newest edition, I have something to compare to and to relate to.  Maybe I'm getting worn out by GW games and that's why other game designs are peaking my interest, or maybe because they just have a better system.

I'll tell you one thing though:  I'm a little put off by 40K 5th Edition.  I'm put off to a point where I'm starting to think of houserule ideas to bring the feel of realism back to 40K.  As a competitive player, I never do that.  I used to view houseruling as a sub-standard version of the game.  When someone asks you for advice or asks you what kind of strategies you employ, you answer them with what you would do "normally".  Normally refers to what everyone else is playing, not some private version that you made up.

My biggest gripe with 40K 5th Edition is when the rules of the book breaks my "immersion".  A huge part of successful game design is making you feel like you're in the game.  Whenever I'm playing Blizzard games, I feel actively engaged and immersed in the universe I'm playing in.  For computer games, this is the smooth gameplay, the graphics, the sound and the environment.  Visually, the game must make sense.  This is where 5th Ed. breaks apart for me a little bit.  Check out these examples:

  • Say you have a unit of Marines standing by a line of sandbags.  The enemy flier shoots at you and you don't get any cover saves against it.  Why?  Because he's elevated and from his LoS, your model is not covered.  On the ground level, you're covered, by according to RAW, you're taking no cover saves against his shots because that's what he sees.  You would think the a bunch of dudes standing in "cover" should get cover from such a thing.
  • Say you have a Raider behind a building and your opponent can see half a inch of your ship's hull.  Even though he sees a sliver of your vehicle, he's still seeing it and the best cover save you're going to get is a 4+.  Huh?  I would think a 2+ cover save is appropriate because the pilot has to be a god in order to pull a shot off like that.  Unfortunately, a 4+ cover is the best you're going to get.
  • Let's talk about the cover system as a whole.  4+ cover everywhere on everything is too damn rich.  All you need is 50% of your unit in cover and you're taking HALF the damage.  A few games ago, I played against a player that had 11/20 Hormagaunts in and around terrain and his entire unit is claiming a cover save.  Sure, the rules say you can do that, but it absolutely KILLS my immersion.  How does that make any sense my mind tells me?  It doesn't.  It shouldn't.
  • Furthermore on the issue of cover, 4+ cover on everything is just plain stupid.  The average cover save should be 5+ or 6+  and it should make sense above all else.  If you have 10 Marines huddling behind a sandbag line, they should receive cover.  If you have 5 Marines in front of the sandbags and 5 Marines behind, then the 5 in front shouldn't get a cover save.  If you have 11/20 gaunts spread in a 2" max coherency, then you bet your ass you shouldn't get a cover save.  With the introduction to TLoS in 40K, the cover system has to be intelligent enough that makes sense to the human eye.
  • Assaulting and killing things in CC in this edition is suicidal.  If you assault and kill something, I believe you should be rewarded.  The thrill of a narrow victory, the bloodthirsty joy of slaughter, the hard-fought battle against impossible odds - you know, that kind of thing.  Let me tell you how it goes in 5th Ed:  You get into combat, you pray that you stay in combat because the second you get out in the open, you're screwed.  Who cares if you just mowed through 10 Guardsman?  You're left standing in the middle of 500 more with guns in your face.  In 4th Ed, you could go from combat to combat as long as you win.  This is to symbolize the bloodthirsty thrill of hand to hand combat.  In this edition, if you leave combat and there's no crater, wreck or terrain to massacre into your undeserved cover, you're dead.  Simple as that.  And why the hell isn't there a rally after you kill a vehicle?  You kill a freaking vehicle and you're stuck there like a bunch of idiots ready to get templated to death next turn.
  • Why is it that glancing hits on the Vehicle Damage Chart can't kill vehicles anymore?  If the VDC wasn't as lenient and the cover system wasn't such ass, then maybe, JUST MAYBE we won't see vehicle spam in every single list.
  • And lastly, when I shoot a Eldar Skimmer out of the sky when it turbo-boosted across the map, I want everything inside to die.  There's no way that a lightly armored skimmer crashing in the ground while moving supersonic is going to magically pause and let its occupants out first.  You should have to pay for such a outrageous luxury.

Yeah, I don't know guys.  Maybe I'm getting old or losing my grip as a powergamer, but when the game doesn't look right to me, I'm not into it.


Unknown said...

I Agree with most of your points. Having been playing for 15 years, I played from Second Edition til now. There are a lot of things wrong and right with the 40k game as it is, I really wish there was more... not realism, just. okay Bear with me...

in 3rd edition you had massive wipe outs happening thanks to sweeping advance. It made deploying shooting armies stacked on each other dangerous, because you could consolidate into combat again. I remember my Death Company being the only surviving thing in my Blood Angels list, and I would of lost (Because they count as dead in 3rd edition). However, Once they hit combat, they walked from Unit to unit and in a matter of 5 combat phases, obliterated the guard army.

3rd edition made shooting armies pointless. Going back further to was really cool, nostalgia covers everything in rose color, but to play a game of any decent size, it took an entire weekend.

4th Edition saw beefing up of Shooting armies, but made Transports basically rolling coffins, Even Wave Serpents and land raiders were dangerous to the units they carried. Don't get me started on "No Escape!" (a rule that I actually think should come back.)

5th Edition is the progression of a growing problem the GW Design team is having. They are slapping a band aid on the problem of previous edition, but they aren't stopping the blood.

Mech is super powerful this edition. Next Edition we'll likely see perhaps the "Lucky Shot!" rule, giving ALL weapons a chance to hurt a vehicle (even if it is just "shaken".

I think they should restructure the VDC again back to two separate charts. a 6 on the Glancing hit, gets you a roll on the pen chart... or something.

I love the setting for 40k, it's why I'll probably play forever. But there are better and more balanced systems out there. GW never set out to make a balanced game, they wanted a fun game. But now the juggernaut is literally at the point where it has to chose one path or the other and just barrel down it

AbusePuppy said...

Realism has never been a meaningful part of 40K, nor is it part of any PP games or Firestorm. You're playing with plastic space fascists who get magic powers from an immortal superman putting part of himself into them so they can punch people extra hard with their exploding missile guns. I wouldn't really worry about "realism."

HERO said...


Sure, the game shouldn't be modeled to resemble realism to the letter, but in it's current state, 40K just doesn't make sense to me anymore. I've played through 3rd and 4th, and this is the first time the game system feels like it's let me down. They tried to incorporate realistic elements such as true line of sight, no partials and a simplified VDC, but with this system came many of the flaws I listed above. The change of cover seems like it came out of nowhere and it's really what ticks me off the most about 5th Ed.

Since this is GW's first go at mixing realism with a game system, I'll give them a thumbs up for trying.

Unknown said...

"Realism" only means naything within context, in the context of a war game, can matter, TLOS is a blessing and a curse, but I give them kudos for trying it, apparently they think it's a success, because they then put it into Fantasy....which the system doesn't work the same for at all.

Unknown said...

Ironically I disliked Warmachine for similar reasons.

But the truth is that no gaming system in perfect.

Sure, it may be balanced for a while, but gradual changes will always evolve the game in ways some of us don't like.

HERO said...


Hey Adam, can you give me some examples from WM with my complaints above? What's wrong with the LoS, cover system and vehicle damage in that game? Just trying to pick your brain a little bit, might make for a great comparison article.

Yes, I agree, no game system is perfect.

KelarionPrime said...

Honestly, after having rode the GW train for so many years, I've found myself looking for alternatives as well, and there are some good ones out there if people want to look.

Warmahordes being the obvious, and easiest to get a hold of. Manic's system is fairly robust and a whole lot cheaper for a new comer to the hobby to jump into. Anima Tactics is another interesting skirmish style tabletop game that's got respectable rules right alongside WM/hordes.

No system is every going to be perfect as has already been stated, but there are some that just seem to be more logical in the way the rules are laid out, thus easier to actually understand overall when it comes into play on the table.

Kinsman said...

Is this a new problem with 40k? I've played since the launch of 3rd edition and I left 40k for several years for this very reason. It was only after realizing that the fluff is what draws me to 40k that I realized I would live with the rules for the sake of playing in GWs universe.

I doubt anyone would honestly confess that 40k is smooth, elegant or 'good' in light of games that have been created since 40k was introduced (I find not many 40k players can be objective, at times, though - especially if 40k is all they play). However, in fairness, all these newer games have had the benefit of watching what GW did and making steps to improve that GW never really has.

Point being, 40k is what it is. Once you are OK with that, you'll be fine with playing the rules. I don't compare 40k to Hordes anymore. I play them each for what they are. I enjoy them both a ton.

I like Hordes more but I play 40k more because my community is mainly 40k players. I don't try to evangelize or convert anyone. I am just enjoying the ride. Sometimes it's all we can do. I love my Blood Angels, love my Space Wolves and just started Dark Eldar.

Is 40k the best game ever? Nah. Is it fun? Yea. Different from Hordes, Confrontation, Dark Age? Yea, but I'm good with that.

Lyracian said...

I agree with some of what you say but not all. 5+ should be the default cover save but I have no problem with 11/20 gaunts getting a save; nor with the vehicle damage table.

40K is a turn based system simulating a battle. In 'reality' those gaunts are charging through the woods as the marines fire at them. Maybe some of the marines have to stop and reload or their bolter jams.

Empty Bolter Clip said...

Does anyone else find it interesting that this question has been popping up a lot lately?

As a for WM/H I have only ever heard 2 complaints about the game... both from a single 40k player. They were in regards to Cover, and the Moral System. The cover one stems from the fact that he didn't like that he had to be close to a terrain feature to gain the def bonus from it. His gripes with the moral system were that models can "flee zero" instead of being forced to run off the board. Long story short, he was comparing WM/H to 40k's *free* cover saves on everything and 40k's Tank Shock ability and ability to kill a fleeing unit. Comparing apples to watermelons if you will. And honestly, he is a 40k powergamer who I think was just feeling a bit of butt-hurt after a loss in WM! =P

Sorrowshard said...

I'm in a similar headspace to you on this , I crave a more 'realistic' system , one that at least makes sense internally. Oddly enough for the first time in an 18 years of hobby I am casting my eyes at other systems.

Of all of the alternate systems I have looked at Infinity has caught my eye, the rules are very cool , the model count is low with a low start up cost (compared to GW) the rules are all available online for free and updated seemingly almost daily.

Needless to say , some of the other vets at my club are the same, have had a look and they think it looks like an excellent game too we will be running some proxy games with the free rules to test the water next week, did I mention the models are sexy .......

Hmm, did not really want to sound like an advert but I thought maybe a low price diversion that offers what you crave might allow you to get on with 40k, I have no intention of quitting 40k for another system. I'm too invested in the background and have quite literally grown up with it.

I'm wondering If the blogging community could put together an unofficial 'advanced' 40k rules set ?

Odd that you bought this up now when my thoughts have been very similar of late .....


Raichek said...

Honestly, what kills Fifth ed for me, isn't the above rules, but the basic problem that 40k and and Fantasy have always had. When I can wipe out over half of my opponents unit before he even has a chance to move, that's kind of broken. I prefer DW, FA, and US because of the organic feel of combat. Much easier to recover from than loosing 50% of your army on turn 1.

Anonymous said...

You should try Rules of Engagement by great escape games. A lot of its mechanics are very similar to 40k, but without the immersion breaking crap. The standard size of a game is 3-5 squads of infantry, two or three support weapons, a HQ unit and perhaps a tank. The game is set during ww2, but we've tried it with eldar vs IG and it was quite easy to convert the stats needed to play, it gave a much closer, personal and gritty experience then 40k 5th. It's not going to replace 40k for us but it's great to have around when we need a break from the 40k cover system.

AbusePuppy said...


How would you propose the cover system works, then? 4+ cover being the standard is how 5E is balanced- cover in 4E was, for most purposes, worthless; 5E changed that, and changed for the better, I think.

The "50% of models in cover" rule is a simplification for rules purposes. Since you never differentiate what models in a squad you are shooting at, cover likewise needs to be resolved as an all-or-nothing proposition. This is not a change from 4E- this is how things have worked for quite some time now.

Having 1" of a vehicle sticking out and only getting a 4+ cover save is likewise how things have worked for quite a while (albeit in 4E it was "counts as obscured" rather than a cover save.) Are you proposing that we somehow define a certain percentage of a model that must be visible in order to shoot at it? Can you not see how this would cause problems?

Glancing hits don't kill in this edition because transports (and vehicles) were suicidal trash in the previous one. I don't know what your experiences were, but having a dork with a Heavy Bolter explode my Predator got annoying after a while.

WH40K is an abstract system; if it was a realistic system, it would be about orbital bombardments, maneuvering, and heat/radiation management in space. I can say, speaking as an engineer, that the resulting game would not be any fun at all for any but the most severely autistic of individuals. 40K is a game about style and Rule of Cool; that's why we have supermen on giant wolves punching airplanes to death as a valid tactic.

If you're losing half your army on the first turn, you're deploying wrong or your opponent is getting absurdly lucky.

Joshua said...

Quite frankly 40k is flawed in numerous ways. The fluff is great. It supports power gaming just like Warmachine but when it comes down to it the rules are aweful. How many FAQ's do you need man? Fantasy is not much better.

If you want a great game with excellent rules then play Flames of War. I play 40K for fun occasionally, I prefer fantasy though.

Even still Gamesworkshop has had, and still has big problems with its game mechanics. They are easy fixes. This is a big reason games like Warmachine and Flames of War are so huge right now.

Games Workshop created a vacuum with its inferior and poorly worded rules. Its defective game mechanics and the other games companies learned from there (GWS) mistakes and made better games.

5th Ed was an attempt to catch up, which seems painfully obvious to me. And in some ways I do think 5th Ed is much better. I too have been playing since 2 Ed for 40K as an above poster mentioned. Its a fun game at times...if you can overlook the silliness of some of the rules and game mechanics. :)

The Cheat said...

How can there be a grumble about 5th Ed 40K that doesn't mention the god-awful, game-stopping wound allocation minigame?

If I inflict 8 plasma wounds on an 8-man marine squad standing out in the open, that squad should be dead. If in addition to those 8 plasma wounds I also inflict 4 bolter wounds, now suddenly four of those guys are still standing! This has to be the worst rule GW has ever put out, and I don't even want to guess what drug-induced stupor produced it.

Anonymous said...

I for one think 40k its not perfect, but is better than Warmachine & Flames of War, talk about playing germans and your big tanks can't make their points worth, dont get me wrong I like FOW but I think they are far from perfect. Warmachine, a lot of 40K players in my area switch when 5th came out,(assault army that would kill you in about 2 turns) complaining instead of adjusting & finding what works in the new edition. They started playing Warmachine and found army's that would win with about 3 turns, Warmachine also had to make changes, now I don't see them playing much, they switch to role playing. Also a lot of these people making rules and new games worked for GW at one point or copy them. 40k Second edition was my favorite, but a high point game took for ever, in my opinion 2nd was fine, all they had to do was fix close combat and tweak some things. I'm trying to do some house rules with the best of 40k and Epic, but then it would be to play with just a few friends. I also have a lot invested in it and I'm weird because I tell everyone my main reason for playing is to have a good time, it those not happen with every game I play. (yes I do want to win but it is not my main goal). It is also the hobby part of it, I'm not a great painter, but do appreciate getting compliments on something I've done. Think about it if it was perfect it would be the only game, this way there are all kinds of games for all kind of weirdos, sorry people. If you don't like keep on trucking till you find the one, I do like marines adapt. Shoot me some comments I feel good.

Anonymous said...

I've only been playing 40k for about a year, so I obviously see it through rosier glasses. From my admittedly limited perspective it sounds like you have a little bit of burnout.

I can relate from how I've gotten with my past hobbies or even women I've dated (before I was married).

I play 40k because it is:
realistic enough (most rules follow something vaguely logical at least)
interesting enough (I love the fluff)
convenient enough (find a game, learn the rules)
cheap enough (to buy, commission, play all the armies I want, etc.)

...for my imagination (I am also an avid reader, but there is something special about enlisting models to do the killing)

In conclusion:
At the end of the day, I just want to laugh with friends and play a game that lets me create my own action movie.

40k fits the bill for me for now. When GW moves in a direction that isnt compatible with my personality, I'll move on to the next hobby.

Anonymous said...

Games workshops rules are very counter intuitive and as Hero says this breaks the game atmosphere. When you are thinking about exploiting rules mechanics rather than executing sound tactics then something is wrong.

For example, my infiltrating Chosen squad with its mixture of bolters and plasmaguns will only fire its plasmaguns because if I shoot the bolters clever wound allocation means I kill less enemy. Shoot less guns kill more enemy is silly and makes no sense.

There are rules artifacts like that all over 40K and games are often decided by who can exploit them most efficiently rather than who behaves with sensible tactics.

One fundamental change that would sort out a lot of issues is alternate unit activation rather than IGOYOUGO. Would solve the issue of what happens after you massacre an opponent in hand to hand as only one enemy unit can respond before you get a chance to charge again. Would solve the whole Alpha Strike thing where the game is essentially decided by who goes first, especially on thinly terrained tournament tables. Try the free No Limits rules which are easy for anyone who knows 40k to get a handle on and see what I mean.

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