Remember my post the other day about 40k terrain, and how it bugs me a bit? Well, I got a few things off my chest, became quite excited when I realised how easy it was to tweak a couple of things and bring something new and exciting to the game, and toyed with the idea of writing some more “updates”. Of course, being me, I got distracted and did a load of other things instead.

Well, last night, we decided to have a game of 40k for a change! We’ve been playing a load of Warhammer lately, and it occurred to us that we haven’t had a bit of grim darkness in the far future for far too long. We knew we were going to be busy in the evening, but we had a couple of hours spare in the afternoon, and it seemed like a fun thing to do! I dragged out my long-suffering Orks, and Sophie decided to have a go with her Nurgle-themed Chaos Marine army (which has sat in a case gathering dust for far too long).

I opted for an infantry horde with a couple of Killa Kans as backup...
...which left Sophie rather outnumbered, and apparently a bit worried!

It was our first game of 40k on the painted board, and it was great to have so much painted terrain, but it made us just want to get on with it and paint the rest of it! We’re doing some pretty cool stuff with our Cities of Death buildings, so I’m sure we’ll put them up on here at some point.

Anyway, we got into the game, and I was astounded at how dated the system felt after playing so much Warhammer! Considering I’ve always considered myself a sci-fi man first and foremost, I couldn’t believe how clunky and frustrating certain bits of the game were. I think one of the greatest achievements by the Warhammer 8th Edition team was taking terrain and changing it from something that people tended to avoid into an integral part of the game. By contrast, in the game we played, terrain slowed things down so much that we tended to avoid it rather than move into it. This just felt a bit lame, to be honest! If you look at the 40k background, in the codexes, novels and video games, battles don’t happen on open ground, so why do the rules make hugging cover such hard work? Also, as the game progressed, we got into a series of protracted close combats which just turned into a grind, and we really didn’t enjoy the last couple of turns – we were playing to get to the end and finish the game.

This really upset me! Here’s a game I’ve played for about twenty years (blimey, I just worked that out, and I’m a bit shocked), I love the background, I adore the armies, but I found myself not feeling particularly excited about playing it again. This wasn’t a toys-out-of-the-pram sort of “upset” (don’t worry, the blog isn’t turning into this sort of rubbish); more the feeling that something I’ve taken for granted as a big part of my life suddenly lost a bit of its spark.

I had a bit of a think about it today, mulled it over in my head a bit, and realised where the problem lies. See, the reason I’m so head-over-heels in love with WFB8 is because there was a conscious design decision to move away from balance-at-all-costs tournament-friendly rules, and get back to some of the narrative, storytelling and quirkiness that makes fantasy wargaming so much fun. Unfortunately, 40k is still a product of the time when everything was written to be watertight and stop rules-lawyers coming up with exploits at the Grand Tournaments, and you can feel it. Everything feels a bit bland, a bit formal. The Warhammer rulebook’s in full colour now, and I think there’s some symbolism there.

Anyway, my point is that the 40k rulebook feels like it’s more about sensible rules than it is about cinematic action. Obviously, we’re not far off a new edition, but it’s far enough away for me to want to do something about it in the mean time. Because if there’s one thing I need, it’s another project, right?

I’m going to refer to this little side-project as 40k Redux, and I’ll be adding little bits to it as I go. The first bit of tinkering (aside from the building rules I posted the other day) is about terrain, because it’s the thing that struck me most in the game we played. Have a read and see what you think – do you reckon this could work? I’ve added commentary in italics, so you can see where I’m coming from. Enjoy!

40k Redux: Movement & Terrain

In 40k Redux, terrain does not slow down movement by default. Infantry units are free to move through terrain without penalty. However, if a unit wishes to run through terrain, it counts as dangerous. Jump Infantry landing in terrain still need to take dangerous terrain tests, and bikes and vehicles still count terrain as dangerous. The “Move Through Cover” rule should be adapted to include the following: “Any unit with the Move Through Cover rule may re-roll dangerous terrain tests caused by running (not assaulting) through terrain.”

Certain terrain types – razorwire, swamps, etc – will count as difficult terrain, and follow the standard rules.

Furthermore, the “run” rule is adapted – before moving a unit in the movement phase, declare it is going to run, roll 1D6, and add this many inches to the unit’s movement. A unit that runs cannot shoot in the shooting phase, and cannot launch an assault unless it has the “fleet” rule.

The terrain rules don’t make much sense at the minute – they’re the product of “rules creep”, where different editions have added little bits here and there and the original point has been lost. In 3rd edition 40k, where the current ruleset was born, 6″ was considered the furthest an infantry model could move in a turn. If they wanted to go into terrain, they would be slowed down. When the “run” rule came in, as a response to people feeling there needed to be better options for moving across a table quickly, that 6″ became the maximum distance a model could move at a standard “combat pace”, without going all-out. This could then be slowed by terrain, but could be increased again if the unit decided to run. Interestingly, running is not affected by terrain at all.
If we stop and think about this from a fresh perspective, it looks a bit weird. In the redux, it’s assumed that the 6″ “combat pace” takes into consideration the fact that the unit will be moving carefully, picking their way around trees, looking for traps when they enter buildings, and whatever. However, if the unit goes flat-out, they risk endangering themselves by not looking for obstacles. Similarly, a unit that’s charging through terrain to get to a dug-in enemy won’t be looking out for hazards as much as they would if the coast was clear.
Changing the “run” rule to the movement phase is just a simplification – a lot of players I know (especially ones with combat-heavy horde armies, such as tyranids) already do this, as it saves having to move huge units twice in a turn. Okay, it means you have to remember that a unit can’t shoot in the movement phase, but as the 40k counters set contains a “run” marker, I can’t see that this would be a problem!

40k Redux: Assaults and Terrain

A unit wishing to assault into or through terrain does not have its movement reduced, but the terrain counts as dangerous. The Initiative penalty for assaulting through cover is removed entirely.

Units with assault grenades may throw them as they charge into combat against a unit that is in cover. After making the assault move and removing any casualties for difficult terrain, each model in the attacking unit that is equipped with grenades may roll to hit using their BS. Each hit inflicts a S3 AP- hit on the enemy unit, distributed as shooting. A unit that uses assault grenades does not gain the +1 Attacks bonus for charging. In the event that all enemy models are killed by grenades, the assaulting unit may immediately consolidate.

With terrain changing in the movement phase, it felt appropriate to make the same changes in the assault phase. However, the fact that charging units take dangerous terrain tests meant that sitting in cover was almost too good, so I removed the Initiative penalty for the attacking unit. Of course, this meant that assault grenades needed changing, but I think the new grenade rules are a bit more funky and colourful. They let an assaulting unit get a few hits in before the enemy gets to hit them, but at a cost. Also, there’s the option for different grenade types to do different things; frag grenades could have the above rules, photon grenades could cause enemy models to reduce their WS to 1 for the turn, plasma grenades could have a higher strength… it’s another avenue to explore.

40k Redux: AP, Cover
and Saves

AP values on weapons should be switched: AP6 weapons become AP1, AP5 becomes AP2, and so forth. AP becomes a negative modifier to the target’s armour save. For example, a Space Marine gets hit by an Ork Shoota (AP1), and suffers a -1 save modifier; the marine’s save drops to 4+.

Cover does not give an alternate “cover save”. Instead, cover gives a positive modifier to the taget’s armour save against shooting attacks, up to a maximum of 2+.

  • Fortifications (Bunkers, trenches, defence lines, etc): +4 save bonus
  • Hard Cover (Ruined buildings, wrecked vehicles, rocks, walls, pipes, etc): +3 save bonus
  • Basic Cover (Woods, sandbags, supply crates, etc): +2 save bonus
  • Light Cover (Razorwire, craters, rubble, mesh fences): +1 save bonus

Obviously, before a game, players should discuss what each terrain piece counts as.

When a unit takes saves, first apply the AP penalty, then apply the cover bonus. This gives the required rolls to make saves. Note that this could lead to different saves within a unit, for example if some models are in cover and others aren’t. If the required roll is 7+ or worse, no save is allowed.

Finally, Invulnerable saves may be taken if a regular save is failed or negated – they are not an “alternate” save, they are an additional one. They are never affected by cover or AP.

Okay, here’s a biggie. With units moving through cover more easily, there’s no excuse for not having a table that’s absolutely packed with terrain, the way you’d expect a 40k battlefield to be. With all that high-powered weaponry kicking about, there should be rubble, debris, wrecks, and all manner of mess over the table. Of course, this means that the cover rules need a bit of looking at.

I understand why the cover rules are as they are. When 40k moved from 2nd to 3rd edition, there was a “no modifiers” rule, and cover had to be dealt with somehow – as such, the cover save was born. Similarly, AP was created for the same reason. The binary nature of it has always felt a bit jarring to me. An Imperial Stormtrooper gains no benefit from taking cover behind a wall in a ruined building when he gets shot at by a Chaos Marine with a boltgun – that feels wrong.

This brings modifiers back to 40k, but they’re already starting to appear in Codex entries, and 40k gamers are certainly smart enough to deal with them. I like to think it brings a bit more cinematic “realism” to the game, though – units will be hugging cover to negate the AP penalties from small arms fire, only risking a dash through open ground when they really need to.

As for Invulnerable saves, we’d got so used to playing Warhammer where ward saves are a “last gasp” when your armour isn’t helping that we felt really let down when they didn’t do the same in 40k! Sophie’s Daemon Prince didn’t even really use his Invulnerable save. Poor guy.

Can't believe I felt sorry for this monstrosity.

Incidentally, rather than Terminators having a 5+ invulnerable save, I’d change their ruling to state that their armour save may never be made worse than 5+.

40k Redux: AP in Assaults

Instead of the current rules governing saves against combat attacks, use the following:

  • Close Combat Weapons have AP 1.
  • Heavy Close Combat Weapons (Chainswords, Choppas, Chainaxes, etc) have AP2
  • Power Weapons have AP3
  • Monstrous Creatures have AP4.
  • Power Fists have AP5.

Note that you do not get cover bonuses against attacks in an assault (except against grenades).

When assaulting vehicles, models may choose to add their AP to their strength; however, if they do this, they may only make a single attack each.

Just a quick one here, because combats get bogged down too easily when nothing ever dies – especially assaults between Space Marines and Chaos Marines, for example, where maybe one model dies every turn. Boring! This should speed things up a bit.
The rule regarding assaulting vehicles came about because it’s always seemed weird to me that Power Weapons don’t get any bonuses in combat against vehicles. This should deal with that. The caveat that models only get a single attack if they do this is to stop units of 30 Ork Boyz tearing apart Leman Russ battle tanks without breaking a sweat!
It’s worth noting that the difference between “combat weapons” and “heavy combat weapons” is obviously up for debate, but as a rule, if it’s a regular sword, club or something that you’d see today, it’s a close combat weapon; if it’s a futuristic weapon which is clearly “40k”, it’s a heavy combat weapon. So Imperial Guard officers get to use chainswords; we know this, so they get heavy weapons. Conversely, Space Marine Scouts carry combat knives, which aren’t all that, so they don’t. If in doubt, roll for it, or something!

So that’s that. A few new rules. I can’t wait to get onto a table and playtest them! If you’ve got any thoughts, please do comment, especially if you’ve tried them out yourself. I’ll let you all know how things go in the test!