My Biggest Wish for 9th: Address the Fly Keyword

Hi Everyone,

As we are all getting excited for the new edition, and whatever changes it will bring, I thought I would go ahead and address one of my biggest pet peeves of 8th: the “Fly” keyword is too good.

To unpack this we must go back in time to the halcyon days of 7th edition. Back then, one of the best universal special rules a model or unit could have was the “Hit and Run” special rule. This allowed a unit or model to leave combat at the end of the assault phase (provided you passed an initiative test) and be free to act in your following turn. Also, you did not have to worry about getting bogged down or tar-pitted (in this edition, you couldn’t voluntarily fall back from combat). It also had the bonus of netting you extra movement in an edition with much slower models. Fortunately, this rule was rarely given, and you can see this in the Horus Heresy games as well, with only a few units able to take advantage of it (one of the first that springs to mind is Konrad Curze).

With the change to 8th edition, this option was greatly expanded in two ways. First, by giving every unit the ability to fall back out of combat, and second, giving the units with the “Fly” keyword the ability to fall back and shoot normally. While this keyword seemed initially rather restricted, it has been creeping up more and more with the appearance of the Space Marine Impulsor and Repulser, among other examples.

My biggest issue with the “Fly” keyword is that it provides such a powerful boost that it actively warps the internal codex balance between flying and non-flying choices (especially vehicles). With non-flying units you must screen them very delicately, and actively consider how to avoid having them be trapped in combat (especially if you opponent is savvy about tri-pointing). With the freedom to escape combat so easily and with no penalty to your shooting, you can save points on screening units and use these units more aggressively.  One of the biggest things holding land raiders back is that they are so vulnerable to being caught in combat that it is not worth the risk. Additionally, this advantage extends to armies that have access to screening units that can fly (most notably Tau drones). As before, these units can stall melee armies without having to worry about sheltering the enemy from ranged fire (or giving up the opportunity to shoot).

I am never one to identify a problem without proposing a solution, so here are my suggestions:

  • As it is currently conceived the fly rule should exist unchanged for units with the “Aircraft” keyword.
  • The movement abilities should remain unchanged.
  • Any non-aircraft “Fly” unit that falls back shoots at a -1 penalty; if they are firing a “Heavy” weapon they are not allowed to fire at all.

While these changes may seem a little draconian, I think they would go a long way in limiting the usefulness of the “Fly” keyword. By providing less of an opportunity to fallback and shoot without penalty, players will need to be more careful about how they use their flying units. These changes wouldn’t do much to solve the issues of flying screening units (I thought about some form of movement restriction but couldn’t think of one that didn’t overly punish them, or unnecessarily complicate the game). However, that issue can be fixed via point changes.

I think Games Workshop is aware of the problem, as we can see with the changes to vehicles firing while in combat, and the new stratagem targeting units falling back. I am hopeful that 9th will stabilize the balance between flying and non-flying units and am excited to see what changes are just over the horizon! Let me know what you think of my ideas. Too much? Too little?

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!


4 Responses to “My Biggest Wish for 9th: Address the Fly Keyword”

  1. Casey H June 5, 2020 8:33 am #

    A good article and points nicely addressed.

    What do you think of a reintroduction of ‘Hover’ for *some* units, instead of Fly?

    Eldar & Tau tanks, SM tanks. All ‘hovering’ tanks? Eldar jet bikes & jetpackers, SM & Crisis Suits. They can move over units as if they weren’t there, but can’t ignore vertical height. A hypotenuse of direct distance must be measured for the model to complete its movement. Apply ‘If-it-sits’ rules.

    Maybe vertical height could be limited for vehicles. They must always be ‘on the ground’ or level 1 or whatever the term is going to be for the new terrain rules.

    I think ‘hover’ could mitigate movement shenanigans. I’d been discussing it with a lot of players around when ITC introduced the If-It-Fits ruling last fall.

    Course, I believe it has been mentioned that the books are written months in advance, like 6 months, and that at this point, the print is set and it’s too late for GW to see this and go, “Ooooh, Lord Paddington and the BeerHammer guy have some ideas” and then make changes. Then again, there are FAQ/Erratas.

  2. NinetyNineNo June 5, 2020 9:50 am #

    No shooting Heavy weapons after fallback even with Fly would be a kick in the robonads to Riptides. Not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, mind you.

  3. Faitherun June 5, 2020 10:19 am #

    I think the issue is more with falling back then with fly.

    If falling back were a LD test instead of ‘free’, there could be a lot more tactical play available.

    • DaleM June 5, 2020 11:25 am #

      Agreed. Making a Fall Back move require passing a 3+ could be interesting. Things like Whipcoils, Lash Whips, etc… could modify that roll and be useful again.

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