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Analysis: Astra Militarum in 8th Ed, HQ Units

Let's analyse the HQ options available to Astra Militarum . Like all my reviews, this will be from a competitive play perspective, ...

Monday, 28 November 2016

Analysis: The Rules Version 1.2 (November 2016)

Now that the "First Draft FAQ" series on the GW Facebook page has been published as "The Rules Official Update Version 1.2" it's time to examine the most significant changes to 40k.

The Rules Changes

We are focusing here on the actual rules changes instead of the many clarifications/reinforcements of old rules, except where they were notably ambiguous. As usual, most of the FAQ is obvious answers to stupid questions, but here are the really significant changes to The Rules.

Infiltration

Infiltrate deployment is now optional. However, Independent Characters without Infiltrate can never tag-along with a squad with Infiltrate, no matter how that squad chooses to deploy, or how hard you hunt for Easter eggs in the rules.

A squad without Infiltrate cannot get a free infiltrate by deploying embarked inside a transport with Infiltrate.

Move Distance

The rules are crystal clear when it comes to move distance: no amount of creative modelling with oval bases, pivoting or jiggling lets you move further than you should.

Psykers

Psykers cannot cast more powers per turn than they have Mastery Levels. Powers can now only be cast once per turn per squad, regardless of how many instances of that power are within that squad, so stacking multiple psykers in a single unit is much less desirable.

The effects of multiple Blessings and Malediction powers of the same name do not stack at all. You can't Look Out Sir a Perils of the Warp (hurr durr).

If a Witchfire power doesn't have a weapon profile, or doesn't say anything about rolling To Hit, then it hits automatically. This makes Psychic Shriek a widely-accessible counter to Invisibility shenanigans. By the way, “hits automatically” means it hits automatically. STFU and stop arguing now.

Shooting Conditional Rerolls

Gets Hot can be mitigated with any kind of reroll To Hit—including conditional rerolls like Preferred Enemyeven when using a Blast weapon. However, those conditional rerolls no longer allow Blast scatter to be rerolled.

Any Faction can buy a cheap Bunker fortification with an Ammo Dump upgrade as insurance against losing shots to Gets Hot. And I just might field my Leman Russ Executioners again.

Barrage

Twin-Linked Barrage weapons may now reroll the scatter for the second and subsequent blast marker (not that many players realised that you could not by RAW in the printed rulebook).

While Barrage weapons always resolve armour penetration against side AV, the centre of the blast marker is now used to determine the actual facing that is hit—relevant to Imperial Knights and other vehicles with invulnerable saves on specific facings only.

Shooting Multiple Weapons

Models capable of firing multiple weapons now get their full number of shots in all phases; Tau Battlesuits and Monstrous Creatures can now pew-pew away on Interceptor and Overwatch fire. Sorry Genestealer Cults, disappear and pop-up at your peril!

Charge Moves

Sweeping Advance and Consolidation is based on the primary target of a multi-charge only; if you nominate a vehicle as your primary target then you can't Sweep or Consolidate against any non-vehicle secondary targets. This is generally going to be a disadvantage, but you can use it to avoid making useless Sweeps against ATSKNF squads and force them to flee instead.

Move distance for Jump models is measured horizontally but their charge distance is measured diagonally. If a squad includes both Jump and non-Jump models then you can choose to reroll your charge range, but the new distance (longer or shorter) only applies to the Jump models. This is a pretty big deal since a single Jump Pack in a squad now gives you a second chance to make your charges—and even if just the Jump model makes the charge, it can drag the rest of its squad in with their Pile-In moves.

Monstrous Creatures are now explicitly forbidden from multi-charging; this is probably just a poorly-written ruling, but until they FAQ-the-FAQ this restriction stands.

Grenades

We already knew that grenades were one-per-unit weapons in the shooting phase, but apparently the ambiguously-written printed rules were also meant to read as one-per-unit in the assault phase too. Vehicles of all flavours get a much-needed resilience boost, and all Walkers—including Imperial Knights—become much harder to kill in close combat.

Stomp

You can Stomp out of combat, but you can't Stomp if you kill all your enemies before you get to the Initiative 1 step. You can't Look Out Sir against a 6 roll.

Transports

If your transport moves at Cruising Speed then its passengers have to Snap Shot, even if they are normally Relentless, Slow and Purposeful, etc. But if your transport Jinks then that alone does not make its passengers Snap Shot. Chariot passengers always shoot as if stationary.

Squads inside transports don't project any 'aura' effects, and basically don't exist whilst embarked. This is a huge kick in the teeth for any army that used to enjoy area-of-effect passive buffs, like Astra Militarum.

Battle Brother allies can still embark in each others transports during a game, but can no longer deploy embarked—the Flesh Tearers taxi service is officially dead.

Projected Void Shields

A unit has to be entirely within 12" of a Void Shield Generator to benefit from its Projected Void Shields, but the FAQ confirms that a model only needs to be partially within X" to be treated as 'within X inches' for any given effect. The combination of these rulings could be ambiguous, but to me reads like every model in a unit must be partially within 12" of a VSG to benefit from its shields. While the VSG is no longer great for protecting big blobs of infantry, it could still be good for protecting single-large-model units like vehicles and Monstrous Creatures, which only need a small part of their base/hull within 12" of the VSG to get shielded.

Feel No Pain

There is no such thing as 1+ FNP (hurr durr) and FNP explicitly works against 'no saves allowed' wounds—Nova Charging Riptides with Stims rejoice.

Detachment Special Rules

All Detachment (including Formation) special rules explicitly apply only to models in the Detachment, not units. This limits Independent Character shenanigans, especially using Run-and-charge or Deep Strike-and-charge Detachments/Formations like the Skyhammer Annihilation Force as taxi services for buffed-up assault characters.

Apocalypse Formations

You cannot use Apocalypse Formations when you're not playing Apocalypse (hurr durr). I do understand this inclusion in the FAQ, I used to get asked this a lot when organising tournaments.

The Impact

A bit of everything has changed—but so what?

Firstly, GW did a good job of closing several loop-holes that exploitative players were known to build lists around. Seriously scrubs, git gud instead of trying to break the system. If more tournament organisers had the balls to crack down on exploitative players then we would have less need for this kind of GW intervention, but sadly a lot of TOs tend to let players walk over them.

Psyker-buffed deathstars get taken down a big notch. Limiting the total number of powers that may be cast, and limiting multiple cast attempts in multi-psyker units, significantly increases the risk of sinking points into these units. Librarius Conclave-style Formations that concentrate psychic might into a single model really suffer from the Mastery Level limit on powers cast per-turn. Summoning-based lists also take a hit.

While we've recently seen an increase in Formations that enable first-turn-charging, the exclusion of geared-up Independent Characters from these delivery vectors is a good moderation. Formations like Skyhammer are still good for applying early-game pressure to your opponent, but they don't set-up an auto-win.

The exclusion of allies-sharing-transports during deployment shuts down a lot of powerful build-around strategies like Ad Mech Pods. We may unfortunately see an extinction of Ad Mech (and Skitarii) on competitive tables as their lack of transports is a serious limitation. This change should not have much impact outside the Armies of the Imperium.

GW seem to recognise that Invisibility is a powerful effect, but have wisely resisted internet cry-babies and refrained from nerfing the ability beyond the underlying changes to psykers. Stomp and Wall of Death remain countermeasures, Psychic Shriek and other auto-hit Witchfires are new countermeasures, and GW even made the effort to tutor players on how to use templates and blasts to punish invisible units positioned too-close to non-invisible units. As GW obviously know, but so few players understand, Invisibility is an essential element of the 40k ecosystem that keeps D weapons in check—just as D weapons keep high T/AV units in check and balance the MSU strategy against deathstars.

I expect to see the new Sisters of Silence expanded and pushed in the near future to give players yet another countermeasure to Invisibility and other psychic buffs—sadly, I also expect that the internet cry-babies will not learn. The changes to transports future-proof against Culexus Assassins, expanded SoS and any other pariah-style effects from totally invalidating the psychic deathstar strategy, thus sustaining meta-game balance.

Void Shield Generators are no longer an auto-include, especially for infantry-heavy lists. They are still a reasonable 100 pts investment to mitigate against conceding First Blood when you go second with a mechanised/armoured/monster-mash list. On the other hand, now that Grav works against Void Shields, there is absolutely no reason for Marines to take Melta or Plasma weapons—bad design. Of course, the cynical view is that now that GW have sold all the new kits with Grav bitz, they will jack up its points cost in the next round of Marine datasheets... we shall see.

But perhaps the biggest impact of all these changes will be the Dreadnought Renaissance. All flavours of Marine Dreadnought have already been officially errata'd to have four base attacks, and the restriction of one-grenade-per-unit in the assault phase takes away their primary countermeasure, at least from the perspective of infantry. Dreadnoughts are popular in fluff and aesthetics, and FW make a wide variety, so I expect to see a lot more on the tabletop—especially from players looking to get some use from their pile of Flesh Tearers Drop Pods!! That said, I don't think Dreadies are going to start dominating competitive play, but the grenade restriction does make Imperial Knights even better.

Conclusion

Bottom line: expect to see fewer deathstars and more Knights.

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