Having a Blast at Engagement Range

This has been a very interesting week in 9th edition 40k. We’ve seen a bunch of new rules, all of which I think will take the game in a good direction while respecting where it comes from. Indeed, 9th edition is shaping up to be a solid update rather than a completely new system.

Today I’m going to discuss two of the rules that we’ve seen: the new rules for monsters and vehicles and the new rules for blast weapons.

Let’s begin with the new rules for monsters and vehicles. Simply put, I like these rules a great deal. Not only will they improve the performance of such models on the tabletop, but they do so with appropriate caveats that I think will bring a pleasing balance to their function in-game.

And what’s more, they make some of my favorite models even better, which is always a plus.

How are vehicles and monsters going to change? The new rule for heavy weapons sheds some light on this: “When an infantry model shoots a heavy weapon, subtract 1 from the hit roll when resolving that weapon’s attack if the firing model’s unit has moved for any reason this turn.” There is, of course, one key difference here: this rule applies to infantry models only. Our vehicles and monsters can move and shoot with impunity.

As rules tweaks go, this is a great one. It makes sense that an Astra Militarum tank column would be able to inexorably advance on tracks of steel while blasting their foes with battle cannon and heavy bolter. And those big Tyranid monsters ought to have the wherewithal to walk and chew gum at the same time, so to speak.

But practically speaking, this is a great little buff to a couple of classes of units that really needed it. Not all vehicles and monsters under-performed in 8th, but many did, and while the to hit penalty wasn’t the main problem with many of these units, this upgrade definitely takes them in the right direction.

Moreover, this buff stacks particularly nicely with the capping of hit modifiers to +/-1. It could be quite frustrating to already be on a -2 penalty to hit when shooting at, say, a flyer after having maneuvered your tank into the perfect firing position. I mentioned last week the feel-bads that come from such interactions in the game, and it’s good to see another rule that goes some of the way to removing that kind of thing from the game.

Granted, it’s a tough balance to find. Hit modifiers are important for many armies. But this will I think do some good without doing too much harm.

But this isn’t the main event for vehicles and monsters. By now, we all know what is: big guns never tire.

This new twist on a classic rule allows vehicles and monsters to shoot in combat. More specifically, it allows vehicles and monsters to shoot only at models with which they are in combat — or, to use the 9th edition parlance, models with which they are in engagement range. However, the vehicle or monster must subtract 1 from the hit roll when doing so.

All things considered, this is another excellent addition to the game. Tagging a tank in combat should never have entirely shut down its shooting. Now, while there certainly is still tactical benefit to getting up close and personal with a tank, there is also significant danger — just as there should be.

Indeed, I think that this rule strikes a strong balance between the vehicle or monster itself and its opposition. Players now have both a strong incentive and a strong disincentive to send a unit off to charge that back-line Leman Russ. The player in question would have to weigh up the potential of potentially losing models in the overwatch phase and very probably losing models in the opponent’s shooting phase to forcing the tank to shoot at the unit that is engaging it in combat. The assaulting unit may very well be lost, but it might stop the Leman Russ from shooting at a more valuable target.

This forces the player to carefully consider the situation and weigh up his options accordingly. But in 8th edition, that tank would’ve been tagged all day long, at little cost to our player.

I’ll note that vehicles and monsters are able to shoot at models with which they are not in engagement range, but they must destroy those enemy units with which they are in engagement range first. The player must declare, therefore, which weapons are shooting at which targets before he rolls.

Not only are vehicles and monsters more effective in combat, but with the addition of the new blast rules, the weapons with which these models are usually equipped are now all the more deadly. Let’s check out how blast weapons will change in 9th edition.

Blast weapons are now more effective depending on the number of models in the target unit. For example, if the enemy unit contains between six and ten models, the blast weapon will make a minimum of three shots. Furthermore, if the target unit contains 11 or more models, the player simply takes the maximum amount of shots available on the weapon.

While taking some of the random chance out of blast weapons is good move, it remains to be seen whether this particular rule will make blast weapons too strong against big units. That said, this rule may very well herald the end of large units in 9th edition. If taking units of 11 models or more makes the enemy’s guns that much more effective, the negatives could easily outweigh the positives when it comes to these units.

Indeed, this is an interesting example of incentives changing behavior. Players now have a distinct disincentive to take units with more than 11 models and a distinct incentive to take units with fewer than six models. A lot of what we have seen so far for 9th edition really points towards the game becoming far less hospitable for hordes. With any luck, 9th will contain some rules that benefit big units in one form or another. By the sounds of things so far, they’re going to need them.

Finally, models are unable to shoot blast weapons at enemies in engagement range. This is another sensible addition to the combat rules. Not only would it be particularly unwise for a Leman Russ commander to order his ordnance to target an enemy at point blank range, but it also provides an incentive to tag vehicles in combat. Of course, this tactic won’t be as effective as it was in 8th edition, but it nonetheless still has some value.

These new additions to the game further cement the idea that 9th edition will be an update to 8th, rather than a complete overhaul. Of course, further rules releases might change this, but from what we know so far, I think that this is a pretty good bet.

I’ve written two or three times here that 8th edition was, all things considered, a really strong game, and I certainly continue to stand by that assessment. But what I like about these rules is that they seem to tweak what needs to be tweaked while keeping the core of the game intact. Of course, it’s prudent to withhold judgement until we have the new rulebook in our hands, but so far 9th edition looks to be on a good path.

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About Rhys Jenkins

Software developer, T'au player.

2 Responses to “Having a Blast at Engagement Range”

  1. Colinsherlow June 15, 2020 7:58 am #

    This was a good read. Thank you

  2. Rob Butcher June 16, 2020 12:02 am #

    sensible understanding of the announced changes

    Now what will you change for AdMil armies in the coming months ? Less screening / more tanks as Stu Black said on the “40K Daily Show” or some-thing else ?

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