Friday, November 12, 2010

Editorial: 40k rewrite part I: what would you like to see

To celebrate my 300th post here on GiF, I thought I would tackle something controversial and unique.

Since I am constantly presenting my gaming out side the box rules I figured what better topic than addressing a complete rewrite of Warhammer 40k. This will be the first post in a series on what I would do to change the landscape of the game.

A really good friend of mine keeps telling me that he thinks "the future of 40k should be in the hands of the fans." I do think he is right in many ways.

Before anyone sweeps in and bashes me for the idea of questioning the designers who are paid to write the rules, let me just tell you to step off. Just because someone is paid to do something does not mean that they should or are any good at it.

I'll be the first to admit that I am an amateur games designer doing this stuff in my free time. I have become quite good at this sort of thing with more than 25 years of experience creating rules.

With all that out of the way.

What would you do if you were the lead designer on sixth edition 40k and were allowed a blank page to create the game system?

Would you keep the "I go, you go" game turn mechanics?

What changes would you make to the movement phase?

What changes would you make to the shooting phase?

What changes would you make to the Assault phase?

What changes would you make to Vehicles?

What changes would you make to the Missions?

What changes would you make to the points system? Would you bring back a quantifiable system for costing models and units; or would you keep the arbitrary this feels right system of the current codices?

I look forward to your thoughts on this topic.


  1. For game turn mechanics, I think players should roll at the beginning of each turn for turn priority. Maybe they can add their general's initiave as a modifier. Something like LotR. (yah, I know, I said it!)
    I kinda' wish vehicles were a little more durable/lasting? I'm not sure how you'd represent this. Maybe, a repair roll like the rhino?
    And for God's sake bring back "Night Vision" and "Move through Cover" for Night Lords!
    I'm pretty alright with the rest, though I'd love to hear about others ideas.

  2. I'd really like a reset- where all codexes have the same rules and no more of this 3 editions ago crap. I don't know how realistic it would be for upkeep (maybe only new codexes every other edition or something)) but the whole "my drop pods work different than yours because my army is 15 years old" stuff is silly. We're grownups. Give us grown up rules.

  3. Part 1 of response....

    hehe..insert evil laugh here. Let the fun begin.

    BTW: I like Jim have been designing and publishing rules for more than 25 years.

    1. No turn counter turn. An old and skewing mechanic that has been done away with by all but GW and its bastard children. (some are nice kids but....) This mechanic is so flawed it is often refereed to as the Pearl Harbor game system or my favorite. :Duck and Cover Gaming" This is 40K as it exist today.

    I am a fan of initiative based systems like Infantry Aces so there really is no phase per's e. I simply recommend taking some of the weird counter-intuitive stuff out and make the phase a little more subtle. Like there being more than one kind of movement. Slow and cautious movement that allows better cover from fire while advancing and squad weapons being usable or fast movement where you are less protected as you dash but cover more ground. I simple mechanic that allows for tremendous tactical subtlety by the players.

    Shooting---Overwatch/ Covering Fire and Suppressive Fire. With out it you skew the use of heavy weapons to simple one kill or vehicle kill weapons. The lack of covering fire and suppressive fire is what results in the misapplication of so many weapons in 40K.

    Assaults should resolve and not carry on from turn to turn. This is a bad mechanic, not true to the nature of hand to hand combat and counter-intuitive for players. It, like many 40K mechanics, lends itself to gamesmanship. The very thing we all despise. Or say we do. Assaults are deadly and they resolve themselves. They are not like some kind of neighborhood brawl that goes on and on. If you ever wrestled in school, I did, you know that nothing is as exhausting or absolute as coming to physical grips with your opponent. The 40K mechanic is like something written by people who have never actually been in a fight. How many of us have watched units stay in close combat for 3-5 turns? Its more common than not in the game.

  4. Part 2 of response.....

    As for vehicles. Simply let them function as vehicles. It is hard to integrate vehicles in what is essentially a skirmish game. There are rules that manage it. We managed it with Infantry Aces. The problem is that in a turn counter-turn or even a phasing system vehicles are either too powerful or not powerful enough. I think the single biggest thing that could be done to make vehicles better is to make them less generic. In 40K as it stands the penetration of a Land Raider is the same as penetrating a Rhino. Same chart, same results. Vehicles should have their own results table for penetration. A unit being transported on a vehicle that is penetrated by certain weapons should suffer the results also. Right now for many armies the result of being in a vehicle destroyed by fire is just getting an additional cover or armor save. Stupid stupid stupid......

    As for missions. Missions should generate in a way that is appropriate to the armies being fought. GW has tried this with Battle Missions but it is not working perfectly. However that is the correct track. I also think the possibility of allowing players to bid victory points to gain possible objectives appropriate to their army would be an excellent and innovative idea for miniatures gaming. This is a system used in many board games, Like Empires at War for Napoleonic s, and I think it would be a very neat thing for 40K missions and tournaments.

    As for the point system it is a catastrophe. Not everything can be pointed exactly via mathematics simply because subjectiveness and use case is so varied it would be impossible. However, 40K should have at its core a solid quid pro quo point system and as many of the additional subjective to circumstance abilities, including morale, should be treated as the force multiplier it is.

    In addition. All the rules used to create the codexes should be codified with in the rules. Codexes should not come out that break the rules by changing or adding abilities that do not exist with in the core rules and its special rules. A well written rule set provides the abilities needed for a limitless number of flavorful armies to be created. RIght now despite what people think there is no point system in 40K that is consistent.

  5. Part 3 of response....

    This is a great idea and all of us in the 40K community should be moving it forward. SOmething is going on at GW that is messed up. Perhaps most do not realize just how HUGE Rick Preistly leaving the company is. He in fact was the filter and sounding board that 40K development went through even though he stepped back from being a named designer. It is his game. He wrote it. The designer have multiple times admitted that things passed through Preistly even with 5th Ed dev and recent codexes.

    Rick was fired against his will. There has been some kind of HUGE fight going on and it seems the corporate marketers just won over the designers. I have my problems with the designers but it was the Marketers that brought us the IG Codex and just watch what we will start getting next.

    Let the community develop a more advanced and balanced set of rules to play 40K. One that accurately reflects the fluff and universe we all love. GW can keep making models and writing codexes. We will just run those codexes through a redesign and translate the list and abilities into something that works and plays better.

    40K is not a hard game. In the world of miniature wargaming it is freaking shoots and ladders simple actually. What makes 40K so hard to play is the poor writing. Lack of timely errata, old fashioned mechanics and that the rules are simple not common sense. This last one is the one that causes the biggest problems. People who play these games know what feels right. When a company goes against what player instinctively feel is the correct way something should work you make a game hard to play. 40K is not a complex game it is just a hard game to play and there is no good reason for that as we approach the year 2011.

    Lets join with Jim and other to make this change. It is our game. Every week more hours are spent playing 40K by its community than all the hours spent by the design staff developing the rules and codexes. Think about the simple reality of that before you dismiss this idea.



  6. Personally I would like to see morale/leadership to play a bigger point in games. I mean space marines should be the elite of the elite but things like guard/tau/eldar should be more easily breakable and as a DE player i know I can make Ld 8 tests all day long, when really they should be running scared after getting the crap shot out of them.

  7. I don't favor throwing everything out. 40k is what it is because of the rules after all.

    I'd go through all editions and have the designers play them. Then I'd grab the good stuff and filling in the blanks. I'd focus on simple mechanics that brings a lot of tactical variety. Next I'd focus on balancing. I'd put an emphasis on making it skill based and implementing a handicap system from square on (like golf).

    One thing I already know I'd change is the missions. They are too simplistic. Also I'd add victory conditions. Preferably multiple ones. Warmachine does this pretty good.

    Other than that I think that it is important to not create a fan game in the way of fan fiction, but rather be the original author. Which is why I think 25 years have paid off. Being able to take a step back and reason about things are important.

    And while we are at it, I'd hire a proper editor, a mathematician with game theory and statistics skills, and someone that can write clear rules and knows logic. Something GW needs.

    Enough of my rant, now I'm curious of what you've got under your sleeve Big Jim:)

  8. Move counter move, shoot counter shoot.
    Heavy weaps move drop the BS -1.

  9. I'd love an 'Optional Advanced 40k' that plugs into the basic ruleset without eliminating people who wish for a simpler ruleset they can understand.

    In this ruleset I would have a system whereby accuracy modifiers at different ranges would return, and where an 'I move, you move, etc' system is put in place to make it a little more real-time.

    I would devise a points system that's slightly more formulaic. I would devise new missions,develop my OP system to replace force org and start putting units into archetype categories (light infantry, heavy walker, etc) instead of broadly defined areas of use.

    I'd no doubt do other stuff but that's the top of my head.

  10. Short answer - meld LotR with StargruntII.

    Other things would be to enable different weapons in a squad to shoot at different things (so my missile launcher can paste a tank while my bolters hose down some infantry).

    Make Rapid Fire guns still able to shoot full range - I hate my marines on foot not being able to hit anything if they walk two feet.

    Assaults disengage after each round (only one per turn with LotR system). It's sci-fi: more guns, less choppy.

    Make morale less of an all or nothing affair - I hate that if I fail a test the unit is effectively dead due to not being able to rally and falling back, or they get shut down for a turn due to pinning.

    Missions could be asymetrical, like 2nd ed or Adeptus Titanicus. Basically you have a mission (capture objectives), but mine is different (kill your HQs and elites). Means people aren't tussling over a couple of flags and trying to stop something totally different to what they're trying to achieve.

    I'll do a longer answer on my blog tomorrow I think.

  11. Great questions.

    First things first.

    I would clean up all the questions in the rulebook. I'd use the INAT as a guide to finding out what are truly Frequently Asked Questions and resolve them.

    After that; I think that 5th Edition 40k is about as good as I'd like it to be. IGOUGO is indeed somewhat clunky in one sense, but the individual unit movements of other systems bank on smaller force sizes. As much as I loved the complexities of pre-3rd edition 40k with armor save modifiers and specialized weapon rules galore; I think we've seen that trimming it down and going bigger is fun in a lot of ways.

    Two small changes I'd make:

    Gets Hot! gets changed to doesn't fire next turn instead of taking a wound.

    Rapid Fire weapons can fire an extra shot if the model doesn't move (only applies to infantry and jump infantry).

    I'd also like to add assault reactions ala Fantasy. You take an I test and if you pass, you can either:

    Fall Back 2d6 (or 3d6 for faster stuff) and count as falling back for morale purposes.

    Stand and Shoot: Get a free round of shooting at the enemy but go at I1. Heavy Weapons may not fire and rapid fire weapons only fire twice up to 12" (to go against what is above in my rules changes). If you are charged by multiple units, you have to choose which one you shoot at before they roll for difficult terrain.

    Beyond those small BRB changes; I'd just go and adjust point levels on all the codices and swap a few units in the FoC.

  12. Probably the biggest change that I'd like to see is switching over to more of a TCG update scheme like Privateer Press has going on. As Loquacious mentioned above having codices that haven't been updated in almost a decade is ridiculous. I realize that updating and game balance take a while... but if you do them all at once MAYBE they'll all be balanced together!

    Really, I can't see much of a downside to this strategy so long as GW doesn't go for power creep. Add new units every so often either from background or to cover gaps in their army lists and then every few years reupdate the ruleset to make sure that everything is balanced. It gets EVERYONE to buy new books to cover the new units plus the units themselves, which means money.

    Or just update armies with new units in White Dwarf like the Nightspinner- that way you can introduce new models outside of major releases.

    Forgeworld is SO close to this- expansion units to the game that are flavorful and awesome to look at. Switch it a bit to update more factions and make it LEGIT would be great.

  13. I will tell you one big change that should be made straight off to the game as it is. Space Marine Bolters are and should be considered Assault 2 weapons. Period. Rapid fire is clunky and so far as Space Marines are concerned it is totally non fluff

    If you want non-power armored troops to use bolters as rapid fire that is great but so far as SM's in power armor go they should be Assault 2

  14. Or make Space Marines have relentless.

  15. New missions are needed to break the monotony of the standard missions. Even the battle missions rulebook supplement is at best a twist on the standard missions with some unique set-ups combined with variant objectives.

    Other than that, I actually like 5th edition overall. Not too bad, but still room for improvement!

  16. Wow, guys, those are a lot of varied responses and ideas. Keep them coming!

    This idea isn't all about changes, improvements are just as welcome!

    So what kind of things would you add to enhance your games?

    Oh and Flekkzo rest assured my ideas will be dropping this weekend, and I am wearing long sleeves!


  17. I like the Stand and Shoot idea alot. That is pretty clever.

    Beyond that - I dont have a huge list of complaints about 5th ed. I actually think it is pretty close to the game as they intend it to be right now.

    But I would REALLY like to see wound allocation shennanigans reworked.

    Also - though I know it was done for "game reasons" I find it silly that tracked vehicles like Land Raiders and rhinos get stuck so easily and are never again moved in the game. Maybe more diverse types of terrain?

    for example... swamps would be difficult for tracked vehicles such as tanks. But city ruins? not so much.

  18. i agree about wound allocations-when every tournament army makes sure that every multiple wound unit is completely complex then there is a problem. wounds should be assigned by ap, so assign all ap1, then 2, etc. you don't get to double up everything on one guy. and wound assignment must start on a wounded model with the exception of an ic.

    i would actually like a mechanic that allowed shots up to 1/6th the range again could hit on an additional roll of 4+. it always bugs me that the bullet stops in mid air and goes no farther. one roll for the unit.

    also, i would like an overwatch, but only against assaults. forfeit shooting to get one round of free shooting if assaulted. it is still strategic, and it is so annoying to constantly have cover screw things up so much that you can never get a shot while they hop from cover to cover.

    cover at 4+ seems a bit much. i think that 5+ is a lot more balanced. this is probably because i play marines, but many armies are able to ignore armor altogether.

    the victory conditions of the missions need to be affected by more than just the last turn. kill points add up every turn, but objectives are only important for one turn. if they had to be held for certain turns, or couldn't be touched by an enemy scoring model. every army builds with a strategy to last turn objective grab, instead of the ability to take and hold.

    finally, kill points were obviously meant as a balance to the inherent advantage of multiple units. with the game mechanics, every unit has to fire completely at one other unit. why not just have leadership checks to split fire. i think that everyone expects a unit to be able to fire heavy weapons at vehicles, or use the pintle mount machine gun to thin out charging hordes while the tank cannon fires into another tank.

  19. Those are great ideas.

    Carl, I agree tracked vehicles permanently immobilizing themselves is stupid.

    Beeny, splitting fire makes total sense. Obviously the small arms fire at infantry while the missiles fire at tanks.

  20. Here's what I'd do:

    1. Remove IGOUGO. Replace it with SOMETHING.
    2. Allow units to split fire (but they must fire all weapons of the same type at the same target, or something, so Tau still have an advantage there)
    3. Buff assaulting vehicles.
    4. Give different armies different vehicle damage charts. Ork vehicles, while fragile, probably shouldn't damage their passengers THAT much when they explode.
    5. Remove "No Retreat", or include a mini-essay justifying it.