Warhammer 40k 6th Edition. Already?

As you might surmise from my long-ago recent posts on Dust Tactics, I am something of a plastic crack addict. I don’t know what it is about gaming with miniatures that grabs my attention so much — maybe it’s a throwback to all those days spent in backyard dirt piles with toy soldiers when I was 5 — but there it is.

I enjoy Dust Tactics, even though it’s not truly a “tabletop” battle game. And I was just starting to get a feel for Dust Warfare, the tabletop system for the same minis range, when along came Games Workshop’s release of the 6th Edition rulebook for Warhammer 40,000. While 40k wasn’t the first minis game I took up, it is the game that I’ve spent the most time and money on. So there wasn’t any question what was going to happen when the new edition rules came out. Yep, tabletop wargaming’s big dog is back on my blog.

Space Marine Assault Squad

New rules with big changes in the Assault Phase.

My pre-ordered, hard cover rulebook arrived via FedEx on the same Saturday the books debuted at Friendly Local Game Stores everywhere. It’s a huge tome — more than 430 pages — that’s chock full of small print (to my aging eyes) and big artwork. The new 6th edition rules occupy 134 pages, so there’s a lot to read even if you’re not interested in any of the game or hobby fluff in the back of the book.

It seems like only a couple of months ago when I was putting away the 4th Edition rulebook and trying to figure out 5th Edition — but it really has been four years.  There are more changes to the game system between 5th and 6th editions than there were between 4th and 5th. Obviously, with 134 pages of rules I’m not going to get into every little detail in a few blog posts. But I can touch on what I think are some of the more significant changes in the rules that will impact game play.

Today we’ll take a look at the new rules that hit home in Assault combat.

In keeping with the title of this blog, I’d first like to point out that 40k 6th Edition (hereafter known as 40kv6) includes rules for opportunity fire — or “overwatch fire” as the rules name it. That’s a mechanism with huge potential for changing tactics. It only happens in the Assault Phase — when your opponent declares a charge against one of your units, your guys can use overwatch fire to shoot at the charging unit before the charge is resolved. The catch is that the firing unit has to be capable of “snap fire” — also a new concept in the game — which means pretty much that infantry-type units are the only ones eligible. Each model in the firing unit that’s in range of the charging enemy can take one shot as a snap shot. All snap shots are taken with a Ballistic Skill of “1″, so it’s not exactly murderously accurate fire. But any kind of shooting is better than no shooting at all, right? It’s at least enough of a threat to make you plan carefully and think about siting your stompy assault guys in good terrain before they go charging into a huge mob of anything that’s armed with a gun.

Another interesting change that also impacts the Assault Phase is the introduction of random charge distance. A standard feature in Warhammer Fantasy Battles, it now works the same way in 40kv6. Declare your charge in the Assault Phase, then roll 2D6 for the distance your guys can charge. If you roll a distance short of your target enemy unit, well, war is hell. Your boys get to stand there with their boxer shorts hanging out through another shooting phase. Good luck with that.

It’s not hard to figure out that 40kv6 is leaning heavily on lessons the GW design staff has learned from Warhammer Fantasy Battles. The Assault Phase in 40k now also includes challenge combat between characters. I won’t go into deep detail here, but the basic idea is that when one of your character/squad combos is involved in an assault with an opponent’s character/squad combo, either character can challenge his counterpart to fight mano-a-mano. If the other character declines, then both characters set out the assault. Otherwise, they fight a round of assault combat.

And I’m just getting warmed up…

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