Guest Editorial from Adam: Shooting is King

Adam from over at the Dice Abide blog, has a guest article for us.

So the latest edition of 40k has been around for a bit now, and it’s pretty common knowledge that Shooting is king. After playing many games in my FLGS, I’ve noticed that Assault armies are doing just fine, but in tournaments, the same players that do fine on their home turf, do awfully in a tournament setting. I set about to think why this would be. The first thought I had was that the players at my FLGS are just not of the caliber of your typical tournament player. I was actually quite content with this idea for a long time, after all, I hadn’t heard any other compelling arguments of why I should assume it’s anything to the contrary. Across the world people with assault armies were at a disadvantage to shooty armies…

Doing what I do, and mulling about with my Chaos Marines, I started to play the army with more and more assault elements, and I found that it wasn’t utter garbage. This got me to thinking again, what if there was another cause of Assault armies doing poorly in tournaments this edition?


How Charging Changed

In 6th edition, we have Overwatch, which gives people a chance to shoot at assaulting units before they make it into combat, which is often cited as a major advantage to shooting armies, since casualties are now removed from the front, you could overwatch the 1 model actually in charge range and deny a charge. This option was never available before, so is an easy scape goat, personally however, I’ve noticed that I rarely have failed a charge due to this, so I wanted to do a bit more thinking on the subject. We now have HP on vehicles, meaning transports are far easier to kill from across the board, and additionally, you can’t charge from a stationary transport. Both of those are pretty profound and help to demolish Assault based armies, combined with Overwatch, I believe we have the culprit, a lot more ways to kill fast assaulting units, with no added advantage to armies that don’t shoot. But could GW have been so blind? Could they have purposely given shooting a huge advantage because they’d rather sell model toys with guns rather than model toys with swords?

It’s pretty easy to point the finger at GW, saying they don’t know how to balance, etc., but I refuse to believe that they’re total idiots. Call me idealistic, but I just had to figure out how they expected to compensate for all these bonuses. What if GW actually wrote in the rules for how to make Assault armies work, it’s just that the rules themselves are often ignored and overlooked?

What if?

Doing some soul searching, and really paying attention to how we play at my local store, versus how a tournament is played, I noticed something that I never thought of before. At my local club, we follow ALL the rules in the book. We set up the board with Terrain Density, use mysterious terrain, objectives, etc., rules which are often ignored entirely in tournaments, as the board is set up for you.

In previous editions, it was recommended that 25% of the board board be covered by terrain, and pretty much it’s been played that way ever since. That 25% margin was very easy to estimate, and led to many fun games in 5th edition, here is a great example of a board with ~25% terrain coverage, from Front Line Gaming.



As we can see, there are essentially 9 pieces of terrain, fairly spread out across the board. 4 pieces of area terrain, 2 buildings and 3 hills, plus 2 single sections of wall (though GW sells them in sets of 3).

In 6th edition, they suggest you play with a rule called Terrain Density, which is just D3 pieces of terrain per 2’x2′ section. This leads to an average of 12 pieces of terrain, evenly spread out across the board. To keep things from getting too bunched up, you are also not supposed to place one piece of terrain within 3″ of another piece. Looking through GW’s official terrain, their woods and craters markers are all about 6-10″ across in either dimension, bastions are about 6″x6″, and their assembled ruins are about 6-10″ square. Once you cover a board with a dozen of these pieces of terrain, you end up with a significantly different experience than if you only do about 9 pieces.

The Solution

More terrain dummy! It will probably take a lot of effort, and possibly even an act of Ward, but tournaments need more terrain to work in 6th edition. 9 Pieces of terrain is only 75% of what the average board is supposed to have now, so when the edition changed to give more advantages to shooty armies, they also increased the amount of terrain, which lowers range and LOS of shooty armies, giving the combat armies cover as they advance.

To give you an idea, this is what a board looks like with 12 pieces of terrain:


Ignoring the Aegis Defense line, this table has:

  • 4 Buildings
  • 1 Ruins
  • 1 Landing Pad
  • 4 Woods
  • 2 Craters

That’s precisely 12 pieces of terrain. They should realistically be a little more spread out, but this gives you a solid idea of what a board looks like with an adequate amount of terrain. On this kind of a board, a combat army would have quite a bit of terrain to advance through or behind protecting them from enemy (read Tau/Eldar) fire power, actually giving them a chance to close the gap and charge into combat, instead of the old 25% board which would see them shot out in no mans land every time. So I say, go out and buy some damn woods!

Vive la Vegetation!



About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

27 Responses to “Guest Editorial from Adam: Shooting is King”

  1. Aventine July 31, 2013 3:00 am

    How does adding terrain to a board help mitigate the firepower of two armies who have plentiful ‘ignores cover’ weapons?

    • Knight of Infinite Resignation July 31, 2013 4:58 am

      by blocking line of sight. One thing I miss about the old terrain rules is that terrain was supposed to be equal parts low difficult terrain, high blocking line of sight and low giving cover. Its possible for a whole board to be just craters now. However if you do make sure that there are plenty of LoS blocking pieces for the players to choose between then it does help assault armies get close.

      Doesn’t help against barrage weapons though, but few armies have lots of these.

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 31, 2013 9:48 am

      And ignores LoS in the case of the Tau! haha, but true LoS blocking terrain really does help against any other shooty army.

      • Adam
        Adam July 31, 2013 4:50 pm

        Well it actually helps against Tau because then they’re using their markers to ignore terrain instead of hit better. 😉

        • Tangentical July 31, 2013 10:18 pm

          And people moaning do forget that Markerlights do have a 30″ limit to their range, one answer is more terrain combined with more long range and preferably barrage weapons (so those Tau commanders can’t tank everything). Helps knock Tau down as the barrage stuff doesn’t need LOS to be effective either.

          • Tangentical July 31, 2013 10:19 pm

            Unless you come up against a Farsight bomb of course in which case you’d get boned.

  2. Pascal Roggen July 31, 2013 4:59 am

    ahem… it’s not that plentiful[markerlights…noise marines…dragons, a lucky divination power?? ignore cover at any decent range] and the most important part of terrain is not that it gives a cover save but that it blocks line of sight.

    being able to hide even one fast assault unit from most of an opposing army is enough to tip the balance back on a more even keel.

  3. John July 31, 2013 5:56 am

    This would make barrage weapons more desirable in a game. Being able to reach out and touch your opponent behind terrain would make a huge difference.

    • Adam
      Adam July 31, 2013 4:55 pm

      People might actually take IG Mortars! Nahhh…

      • Tangentical July 31, 2013 10:22 pm

        Ummm, mortars are pretty good now that a decent amount of the tournament scene have Ethereals hiding in big units o Kroot or Fire Warriors and Commanders tanking for marker drones. Barrage sniping is one of the best ways to deal with them… True, better done by the big guns though.

  4. Baal Viper July 31, 2013 7:28 am

    I agree, I think the 5th Ed. terrain mindset has not worn off. Sadly, alot of big tournaments may want to play with more terrain, but adding 3 pieces to each table adds up pretty quick. That is not an excuse, and we should play with more terrain, but it will take a while to gear up to that I am sure.

  5. Tarrant July 31, 2013 9:13 am

    I agree with the “more terrain” sentiment. I see a lot of 40k games where the terrain would be considered minimal for a WFB game. I also wish GW would have gone back to having area terrain block LOS to units on opposite sides of it (not in it).


  6. Vidar July 31, 2013 11:42 am

    One of my favorite games was down in LA where I hid behind 3 LOS blocking terrain for 2 turns in order to draw out a Space Wolf MSU Razorback Spam list. Hard to find now.

  7. Alan July 31, 2013 12:57 pm

    A very solid article. The only issue I can see is Tau just going ham and ignoring cover and JSJ all over the damn place, in and out of LOS! And yes… I said “going ham.”

    • Adam
      Adam July 31, 2013 4:54 pm

      Using marker lights to ignore cover means they’re not using them to hit on 2’s. That’s just about as good in my book.

      • Alan July 31, 2013 7:25 pm

        Yeah, when I said ignoring cover I primarily meant the boatload of SMS they bring to the table, not Markerlight effects, which just murders everything!

        • Adam
          Adam ( August 1, 2013 6:55 am

          I’m not sure about a boat load, but obviously that depends on the list. Personally I haven’t seen many competitive Tau lists with lots of SMS, though if tournaments started using more terrain, the I could see it happening. Fortunately SMS has a fairly low AP, though that’s not comforting to Orks and Tyranids.

  8. Alex Yuen July 31, 2013 2:42 pm

    Shooting is not the king. only thing is that assult now is being part of the game rather then only thing in the game (3rd). By design there are only one shooting phase but to assult phase in a game turn. mean you shot once but attack twice in assult in a game turn. so very basic or stipid level, if you have 2 attack in assult that equal to 4 shot in shooting. How to balance that is by make it harder to assult. So now in 6th ed the balance is just right but whoever this seem to be a new thing so people are just getting use to it. 6ed just requires more tactic and thinking on how to get that assult unit into assult in one piece. Also that add more into the game since that take the spam one type of troop and overhelm don’t work that well in 6th ed.

    • Adam
      Adam July 31, 2013 4:54 pm

      Going by anecdotal evidence provided by basically every major tournament in the world. Assault armies rarely, if ever, place near the top. That is a pretty solid indication of how they perform in a competitive environment if you ask me. If it was anywhere near a mix of assault vs shooting armies, then I’d say it’s more or less balanced, but instead shooting based armies are performing far better than assault, which is a good indication of how imbalanced it is.

      The whole point of balance is to give both play styles a chance of winning. They did penalize assault quite a bit as it is, though their terrain rules also changed, presumably for more than the reason of just selling more terrain kits.

      • Tangentical July 31, 2013 10:34 pm

        Unless the assault army has access to. 2++ re-rollable save like Tzeentch Daemons or to a lesser extent The Baron if Fortuned. Seer Bike Stars can also end up with 2+ re-rollable armour and cover and 4++ re-rollable as backup. The Wraithknight also laughs at overwatch. Basically it’s only extreme assault units that are Tournament viable as a genuine strategy and they become a serious point sink. Otherwise Assault is situational and I mainly see it used for clearing small units or tar pitting.

  9. Vidar July 31, 2013 3:47 pm

    You want LOS blocking terrain? Bring your own. Buy a Fortress of Redemption.

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 31, 2013 6:12 pm

      Hey, we happen to sell those! Hahaha!

  10. DCannon4Life July 31, 2013 4:32 pm

    Adam; Though provoking. I think you’re right about the terrain density. The second paragraph under “Area Terrain” on p91 of the BRB adds support to the idea that ‘shootiness’ is supposed to be balanced by terrain, with its references to blocking LoS.

  11. steven morrow July 31, 2013 4:54 pm

    Friend of mine plays tyranids and we’ve been using Terrain density since the start. Even against imperial guard and eldar every game has been super close. Genestealers. hive guard. biovores. scythed carnifex walking tyrant all work fine.

  12. Cameron August 1, 2013 5:55 am

    Great article, good points! Thanks

  13. bugsculptor August 1, 2013 3:15 pm

    I’ll echo here the same comment I made on the original article – multi level ruins are one of the best thing in the game for balancing hell turkeys.

    If you split a scoring unit over multiple levels it can’t easily get torrented out in one turn. In a multi level ruin one or two cheap units can still hold a backfield objective against a couple of turkeys, or at least tie up the turkeys for a couple of turns of burninating them out.

    Here’s hoping a friendly TO or two is listening… I’ve found in a few games with my nids against Adam’s turkeys that even with minimal or no anti air I can actually ignore the dragons and they won’t do too much damage if I’m careful with this tactic. It works better than wasting points on a flyrant, which is just so much vector strike bait and can’t easily scratch the AV12.