Editorial: Is it time to kill the Scatter Die?

Hey everyone, HeavyPlate here with an editorial about our old friend, the Scatter Die!

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Recently, Games Workshop released their newest dice cube, and curiously, there wasn’t a scatter die inside of it. This struck me as odd but I kind of just brushed it aside as “Just another weird thing GW does.”

But to my surprise, my local community started spouting relief, as if they felt it was a sign that eventually, maybe sooner rather than later, Games Workshop would do away with the signature six sided cube.

Now, spoiler alert, GW shortly after just released a giant tub of scatter dice to be sold however in stores, usually for less then a $1 a piece. But that could just be a band-aid fix for forgetting to include the scatter in the dice cube, or a sign of trying to dump their inventory for longer term plans to do away with it entirely.

Frankly, this was something that hadn’t even entered my brain. The scatter die has been such a staple for so long that I just accept it as part of the game. It was so old hat that i didn’t even see why they’d WANT to get rid of it at first. So I asked around,and took a survey on everyone’s opinion on it, and this is what came up the most.

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  1. The most common argument in 40k:

This has happened to everyone. The scatter is rolled and the 2d6 determined, the player busts out the tape measure and points it in the wrong direction. You tell him to move it because it is wrong. Most are cool with this, but not all can deal with being told they are wrong.

Now, 99% of the time, this is just a problem of a point of view. That the person with the tape just has a bad angle of the arrow. This is why the most effective way is when both players are resolving the scatter.

  1.  Very time consuming

This one everyone can agree on. Even if you have mastered how to resolve a scatter quickly, it regularly eats up more time than other shooting attacks.  Even just not being able to find the scatter die for a bit slows things down, then if you have misplaced or even forgotten your template(s), hunting for the best location, scattering, moving, and finally counting how many are actually hit. It’s fairly tedious, especially with things that fire multiple templates. Some don’t like it so much they build lists to exclude a scattering weapon, just so they don’t have to do deal with it.

  1. An imperfect system:

Because of all the steps involved, and the nature of the game and the scatter, it’s very difficult to resolve their attacks perfectly. As hard as you try, you’ll never truly achieve the perfect line from the arrow and get the correct distance from the center and THEN also get the right count of what is under a blast in a horde of models. There are too many variables. Most of the time players just try to work out what makes the most sense and just roll with that instead.

A feeling I also got from members of my community was that they wanted to do away with templates in general. They feel they contribute to the problem of complexity to 40k. A group even tried to experiment with a system to replace them. An example of their system was to propose that if the weapon fired a small blast, it just did D3 hits, instead of scattering and using the template.

While I can appreciate the attempt to make a thunderfire cannon quicker to play with, this system felt very wrong to me. The idea of a weapon that basically auto hits and could potentially be out of line of site just seems wrong. But what would be a better alternative? What would a gaming world looking like without this unique D6 we all must carry around?

After giving a lot of thought on how the scatter system works, I’ve come up with a proposed alternate to blast weapons. Now, please. I know this isn’t perfect and there are plenty of holes in it, I’m just trying to keep the flavor of the original idea while trying to streamline it somewhat.

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So, if a weapon has the “Blast” profile, place the small blast on an enemy target within the weapons range.

Roll a D6, on the result of a 5+, the weapon “Hits” and every model under the blast is hit. (Just like before)

On a results of a 3 or 4, take a number of dice equal to the firing models Ballistic Skill(Example: BS 4 would get 4 dice, BS 3 would get 3) and roll them. Each results of a 4+ equals a hit on the enemy unit.

On the results of a 1 or 2, the weapon misses completely and no hits are achieved.

This is the basic concept I’ve come up with. I’m trying to keep the flavor that model positioning matters, while not having to place a template multiple times. It also means that you should statistically get the same number of “Hit” results as before. Finally, it also rewards armies that have a higher ballistic skill firing “scatter” weapons and had a reduced scatter, sometimes getting a direct hit despite the arrow, while still crippling the armies that have a lower BS. Those armies are usually only hoping for a “Hit” result anyway.  From here you can give some weapons special rules, like maybe getting a “Hit” on a 4+ instead of being Twin-linked or on a 3,4 result hits can be achieved on a 3+ instead as an example.

With a Large blast, and a 3, 4 result is rolled, you would just use the user’s BS times two.(Sp BS 4 would get 8 dice) This does mean that there would be instances that you could potentially do more damage with a 3,4 results, but it is rare and random, just like a scattering arrow. If the template is covering one large model, such as a vehicle or monstrous creature and a 3,4 is rolled, just use 1d6 following the same rules as before(a 4+ achieves a hit) from there.This is so you don’t have a scenario where you could get a large number of hits that wouldn’t of happened normally.

I was happy with this as a replacement for scattering weapons, when it hit me hard that’s not the only use for that silly dice.

Deep Strike

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This one floored me for a while. I thought it over for a long time, and frankly, for Deep Strike, using a scatter dice is kind of elegant. It’s probably the simplest way to resolve a powerful unit screaming from orbit or appearing from the warp etc. But this is a world that doesn’t have the luxury of a scattering D6, so how would you resolve this fairly without one?

If a unit has the deep strike special rule, place the first model as you would before.

Roll a D6, on a result of a 5+, the unit “Hits” and doesn’t move, continue with the deep-strike as previously done.

On a 3,4 results, roll  2d6 and the controlling player MUST place the starting model the combined result away from the original point, but the controlling player chooses the direction.

On result of a 2, roll 2d6 and the enemy player gets to choose the direction the unit must move.

On a 1, the unit suffers a mishap.

Example. A player is deep striking a 5 man unit of assault marines.

A 3 is rolled, the player deep striking must move that unit 2d6 from the initial position, he uses his tape measure and makes a circle equaling the size of the rolled result of the 2d6. He may place the first marine anywhere on the rim of that circle, but it must be on it. He then continues to place the unit as the rules normally state.

If a 2 is rolled, this process is instead done but the opposing player. This means they could potentially put that model where it would mishap or not be able to make a concentric circle.

In my mind, whenever a player is deep striking a unit, one side is hoping for good, the other not so much. I limit the options for the enemy player by only allowing a 2 result to take power into his hands because they will try to mishap the unit, and if they can not, then they’d at least get to put that unit farther from their own models. The enemy is rooting for a mishap anyway so it can only happen on a 1. Personally i like this more than just allowing units to appear on the board however they want with almost to no consequence.

So there you have it, an in depth look at what a world without the scatter die could look like. Tell me what you think of it. Do you think we still need a scatter die in 40k? What would you do differently? Or would you keep it how it is? Post your thoughts below.

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38 Responses to “Editorial: Is it time to kill the Scatter Die?”

  1. Calle August 19, 2016 12:28 am #

    Sorry but I think that the scatter dice works much better and is more simpler than your example. It’s also more fair. I play orks and Ad mech. So with skitariis doctrines I can get BS 7 while orks have BS 2. That wold mean that when skitarii scatters with a small blast they can easily kill off more orks than they would with a direct hit AND they would get more hits than orks could achive with a big blast! And by the way, I’m not always hoping for a direct hit when I place my blast markers with my orks. I’m placing them so that they will get a chance of scattering over other units as well. Thus giving me a better chance of actually hitting something than my otherwise crippling BS2. Your example does not mention how big a unit is either. A lone model or a unit of 30 shouldn’t be equally hard/easy to hit.

  2. Ytook August 19, 2016 1:03 am #

    Personally I think it should work that you place the template then roll to hit, roll of a natural 1 completely misses and hits no one, a miss that isn’t a natural 1 causes half the number of hits rounding down on each unit covered, a hit causes a number of hits on each unit equal to the models covered. I like that, it’s simple and makes it harder to hit single models, means blasts are inherently less effective against vehicles and monstrous creatures which I think is fair.

    Though i should say that this is using my fantasy in my head version of 40K that also uses AoS style wound allocation so no sniping barrages 😛

  3. Thomas August 19, 2016 1:56 am #

    Great article. I don’t like rolling for scatter, mostly because it takes too much time and it is too easy to make mistakes or end up in disputes on here the blast marker lands. I Think the draw backs are greater than those funny moments that can occure when it scatters way wrong.

    It would be easy to make blasts more stream lined, even without going full Age of Sigmar and remove the markers and templates completely.

    The easiest way would be to place the marker and Roll to hit – if you hit, you do the number of hits equal to models under the marker and if you miss you do half the number of hits. On a roll of 1 you miss completely.

    The idea for Deep Strike is pretty good, I like it.

    • Ytook August 19, 2016 6:58 am #

      We’re on the same wavelength it seems! I think this would be the easiest way to do it, but I think you’d need to round down on a miss that isn’t a one, otherwise it’s a tad too easy to hit single models like vehicles and monsters, and I think some protection from blasts for those models makes sense.

      • Thomas August 19, 2016 7:19 am #

        Dude, I completely missed your comment before posting mine. Yeah, we are definitely on the same wavelength. I don’t know if rounding down is necessary. If you target a vehicle or MC with a blast you will probably hit it, even if you scatter. At least if you have BS4.

        • Ytook August 19, 2016 8:34 am #

          True, I just personally always liked when blasts did less effect to vehicles when there centre wasn’t on them (even if it was a bit fiddly), always seemed odd that you could be clipped by a blast and still feel it’s full effect when you’re that tough, but maybe that’s more to do with vehicles needing to be a bit tougher in the game in general.

  4. greggles August 19, 2016 3:07 am #

    Or you could just bring a laserline.

    http://share.xboxlife.dk/file/zdgzywziytc4yza0ntc5yzrimzi0ngy2ztu2ngzjnzm.jpg

    just place on the scatter arrow and measure to the point. Nobody argues with a laser.

    • Thomas August 19, 2016 3:48 am #

      Yeah, that’s useful but you still have the parallax error to account for, it isn’t always possible to roll that scatter dice close enough to avoid it.

    • Threllen August 19, 2016 10:42 am #

      That does help a bit, but it’s not as simple as just starting on the model and pointing to the arrow since the arrow might be mis-aligned with the model.

      This is essentially the same thing my friend group does when rolling for scatter, just without the laser. Take your tape measure and line it up over the arrow itself. Then, trying to be as steady as possible, just move the tape measure over the model’s base keeping the angle the same. Of course there is still human error that way, but the laser won’t fix that either.

    • westrider August 19, 2016 6:38 pm #

      I’ve been kind of leery of lasers in hobbies that include substantial numbers of veterans since an incident in a Tournament a few years back when someone who’d just finished a tour of duty nearly jumped the table and tackled his opponent when he saw a red dot appear on his shoulder from someone’s laser pointer.

  5. Davis Centis August 19, 2016 4:28 am #

    I really like the Scatter Die. It feels like something so 40k. Yes it’s more time consuming, but the tension in the game always goes up a notch when the scatter die is broken out.

    Personally, I feel like it would reduce complexity and help speed it up if players were given more wiggle room.

    First: Allow players to place templates so long as no part of the template is further than the weapon’s maximum range, and must try to cover at least one model in the target unit. None of this “place over a model” or “avoid friendly models” thing. Just let players follow their instinct for when they first picked up a template and let them go to town.

    Second: Roll to hit. If you hit, the blast doesn’t scatter. If you miss, it ALWAYS scatters (follow small arrow, always scatters full distance). This reduces how often scatters happen and is a fair representation of skill. Remove the distinction between direct and indirect.

    • Dakkath August 19, 2016 5:52 am #

      I like this idea a lot.

    • Threllen August 19, 2016 10:47 am #

      I do like the idea of using a roll To Hit to determine if you scatter. To me it seems really cheap that BS is not a huge factor for blasts because you’re guaranteeed a 1/3 chance to not move whether you are BS2 or BS10. Granted, high BS helps when you scatter but it’s not quite as important for large blasts since even a little more scatter is usually ok.

      One other alternative would be to make blast weapons ALWAYS scatter but the scatter is only 2+D6 or something like that. That way your scatter distance is always going to be directly affected by BS. BS4, for example, won’t move 1/3 of the time and will never move more than 4″. A system like this would increase your odds of moving at all but decrease the maximum volatility.

  6. Life of adept brian August 19, 2016 5:05 am #

    I think if you are getting into arguments of the final placement of a scatter, you are playing against the wrong people. Or you are that person. I don’t think I have ever gotten into an actual dispute over the final placement of a scatter – like in all things (scatter placements, rules interpretations, politics, religion), even if you think you are right (especially if you know you are right) and the other person is adamant the they are right, you take the high road and concede. This way, if you lose you can use this to console yourself as being the reason why, and if you win it feels like an even more of a victory to overcome such ass-hatery! I sleep very well after every game, knowing that I am awsomer than the other guy either way. But then, I am Canadian – passive aggressive digs at ones character disguised as apologies is kind of our thing… Sorry 😉

    I really like the scatter mechanic, it adds a tension and angst that really adds to the game, not takes away IMHO.

    • Scotyknows August 19, 2016 8:39 am #

      “I am Canadian” Do you play against other Canadians, might be why your playing experience has been so polite.

      At every competitive event Ive ever been to scatters finals placements have been debated. Not harshly or with ill will, but enough time is spent figuring out where it should go that it does really slow the game down when you compare it to something like AoS.

      Another side effect of blasts that he didn’t mention is how long it takes for everybody to perfectly spread their models out to that 2″ coherency. I usually go for a stroll in my opponents movement phase cause it takes them forever to move their shit if I have a thunderfire cannon or what not. I would be ok if they were just gone forever, I dont think there is any “skill” in sticking a 2 inch stick between all your models to minimize damage.

  7. Nogle August 19, 2016 5:47 am #

    I miss the sustained fire dice

  8. Dakkath August 19, 2016 5:49 am #

    Personally I wish the blast templates had a spinner of some sort built in. On a 5-6 it’s a hit, 1-4 spin for direction and roll 2d6 for distance. Problem being logistics of making a cheap, easy, and reliable way to incorporate such a spinner and be able to spin it while holding the template in position.

    • Morollan August 19, 2016 6:13 am #

      The templates for Infinity have the direction of scatter on the template itself. GW could easily do something like that as it cuts out a lot of arguments, especially when people roll the scatter dice 3 feet away from the target!

    • westrider August 19, 2016 6:23 pm #

      You can also cut it down by just putting 1-6 evenly spaced around the Blast Marker. Start with the ‘1’ pointing back toward the firing Unit, and if it misses, roll a d6 and Scatter it in the appropriate direction, based on the numbers on the Marker. It gives less variation than a Scatter die, but honestly, I don’t think it’s that huge of a deal.

      • Dakkath August 20, 2016 9:20 am #

        That’s even better

    • fluger August 19, 2016 6:29 pm #

      Yeah, what they said. Warmachine has a similar system for scatter where you point one end at the firer, then roll.

      To me, that’s the easiest way to reduce a lot of the issues.

  9. Huy August 19, 2016 6:23 am #

    I think there is already precedent for losing the scatter die in GW. I turn to AoS where you don’t even have templates and an artillery die, let alone a scatter die.

    While I’m relatively new to AoS, I’ve been a long-time 40k player and semi-long fantasy player I actually find I don’t miss the scatter die at all. Everything resolves quicker but with the caveat that in order to facilitate this the entire game was completely revamped.

  10. AngryPanda August 19, 2016 6:42 am #

    The scatter die is one of those things that always seemed more convinient than the numbered templates or other solutions I found in other games. In our group we tended to just use the scatter die in those too.
    That said it is used way too much. I’m pretty sure blast weapons used to roll to hit normaly and if you hit you placed your template how you like. Miss and it would scatter, full distance, little arrow on the hit symbol for direction if it came up.
    So it didn’t have to be used every shot which is just a pain.
    Same for deepstrike realy. There should be a chance to just land those before rolling to scatter. A decent one as that. I think even GW knows how unreliable Deep Strike is seeing how many rules to make it less terrible they use for the Drop Pod.

    • Vercingatorix August 19, 2016 7:13 am #

      I’m honestly a fan of using two dice and have it go towards the larger. We use that when we don’t have a scatter dice and I like it because it usually makes the direction more obvious because instead of drawing a line between two points on either corner of a D6, the points are several inches apart.

  11. Vercingatorix August 19, 2016 6:50 am #

    What I would like would be to have 6 lines on the blast marker coming from the center of the marker to the edge that were numbered. Roll 1D6 and have it go on that direction. Make sure one of the lines is a different color so that line has to be perpendicular to the players table edge so there’s less funny business with spinning the template after the dice is rolled.

    This way its still using D6, still using template, still somewhat random, but no scatter die. You could do the same thing with deep striking. Drop pods in particular since they are a large blast marker.

  12. Axis of Entropy August 19, 2016 7:26 am #

    No.

  13. Vankraken August 19, 2016 7:59 am #

    I personally like the scatter mechanic as it makes blast weapons feel different and the scatter die works well enough at facilitating that. While it is a bit of a clunky mechanic when your spamming 12 blasts in a single volley (wyverns/grotzooka kanz) but at the same time it gives the feeling of firing these AoE attacks that will deal damage even if they miss and can possible hit nearby models (friend or foe) which is something that doesn’t happen with the default roll to hit weapons. It adds variety and helps differentiates the weapons. Not everything needs to be streamlined as that often comes at the price of removing unique or fun aspects from the game.

    As to the artical’s proposed system it seems just as clunky but also less in the spirit of what blasts are suppose to represent.

  14. jared swenson August 19, 2016 8:00 am #

    Yes, burn it with fire! Scatter dice and templates I feel are less necessary since they got rid of it in the switch to AoS, and I really don’t find myself missing them. To many times have the questions of whether something was scattered the right direction, or even if something is or isnt under the template, brought games to a screeching halt. Even if you are playing among friends it just happens.

    So getting rid of remplates and scatter dice for 40k would be a jarring change, but I really don’t feel people will miss them after they’re gone.

    • Scotyknows August 19, 2016 8:44 am #

      I agree, after really getting into AoS(im running a campaign lol, and they should of had points right from the start imo) the thing I love most about it is the speed of the game. I think that the lack of ambiguity has a lot to do with the speed of play. I will get 3 to 4 games in when we play at the local club, 40k I would play 1 maybe 2 games in the same amount of time.

      • Turok117 August 19, 2016 10:26 pm #

        And you probably could have played 20 games of Solitaire in the same amount of time. This idea of playing a simpler game so that you can play it more times is so foreign to me. I enjoy the complexities that 40k offers me and if that means I only can play one game in an evening, then my fun was in no way diminished. Opposed to the AOS game I played earlier today where the most tactical decision I had to make was the order my units attacked in combat.

  15. Jason Wolfe August 19, 2016 9:07 am #

    New blast rule:

    Blast X gets up to X shots at a unit up to the model count in the unit. The BS is the scattering effect. Blast become good against large model count units, inefficient at single models, just like it is now but resolves much faster. Also, under this system “Blast” weapons could fire snap shots.

    Examples:

    Blast 3 fires at 2 model unit: roll 2 to hit dice at firer’s BS
    Blast 3 fires at 4 model unit: roll 3 to hit dice at firer’s BS
    Blast 5 fires at a 4 model unit: roll 4 to hit dice at firer’s BS
    Blast 8 fires at a 12 model unit: roll 8 to hit dice at firer’s BS

    • Jason Wolfe August 19, 2016 9:10 am #

      I would keep the scatter die for deep strike.

      The “Blast X” system also has the bonus of making so that coherency shenanigans with large models with small bases doesn’t cheat small blast attacks out of being able to hit two models. People usually place scat packs 2.5 inches apart based on the models, not on the bases, meaning a small blast can never hit two eldar bikers.

  16. Zero-Charisma August 19, 2016 1:29 pm #

    Scatter Dice and template markers are awesome, if two people cant agree in what direction blast marker ends up maybe they just shouldn’t leave the house…

    I think currently its fun and represents the corresponding weapons in a very visual and interesting way.

  17. BBF August 19, 2016 3:43 pm #

    Super gamey cheese article. Totally TFG

    • fluger August 19, 2016 6:29 pm #

      Que?

    • Vercingatorix August 20, 2016 9:05 pm #

      I like my articles extra chewy with a side of Parmesan.

  18. Dan August 19, 2016 4:00 pm #

    Personally, I like the Templates and am okay with the current random scatter rules.

    However, if 40k were to do away with the scatter dice then another game I play, Infinity, provides a simple and very good answer to how to resolve scatter.

    In infinity, there is no scatter dice, Instead, the directions for scatter are found on the actual blast templates for the game – there are 8 numbered directional points spread equally distant around the edge of the template (two points have double up numbers of 2-3 and 8-9, the rest are just the other numbers from 1-0/10),

    When firing a shot or deep striking models,. you place down the template where you want it to land and then roll to hit. Even deep striking rolls off a models PH stat to see if you land accurately). If you miss, you then roll a D10 and the template scatters some distance off in that direction (distance depends on how badly you failed to hit – the worse you fail to hit by, the more you scatter).

    It is very easy to measure the direction and I have yet to see a single argument over which direction the template goes if it scatters.

    Could easily adapt the same for 40k and just use 6 scatter points on the template instead of Infinity’s 8 points.
    And if you miss in 40k, you could just roll a D6 and the template would then scatter another 2D6″ off in that direction.
    Easy.

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