Saturday, December 26, 2015

40K: Turn Order Needs An Overhaul

What's this you say?  Change the foundation upon which the game is built?  Blasphemer!  Heretic!  Chaos spawn!  Guilty on all accounts

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As the power levels of individual units has risen, Lords of War/D-Weps have become part of daily life and formations are the flavor of the day, it is much easier to perform effective Alpha Strikes and end games, IMO, much too early.  Do we really come to the table just to get slammered (I just made that word up...it sounded right) by turn 2?  I know I don't.  Maybe in the tournament scene this is an enjoyable occurrence, although I doubt this is true there either.  In local metas, it is easier to mitigate such shinnanegans by asking the "do I want to lose friends?" question.  Still, in the hobby as a whole, because of the aforementioned increase in overall power levels, the importance of First Turn has risen to a troubling level.

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Two examples.  First, I am playing a friend who has two mobs of 15 Lootas, both of which are on rooftops.  I take a squad of 3 Quad Mortars to try and mitigate this.  If he gets first turn, he can easily scratch those 3 mortars with either mob, and still have room to spare.  Conversely, if I get a first shot off my 12 templates have a good chance of eliminating one of those mobs.  If both of those Loota mobs survive into turn 2...ouch!  Next case is a friend who has a Fellblade and a Spartan...need I say more?  If he gets first shot off, I may well and truly just start packing up my models.  Not that both of these examples are irreversible loses, but they do illustrate the power of the First Strike.  I am sure that you, dear readers, can come up with plenty of your own examples to illustrate the criticality of getting First Turn.  With each example we are making a case.  There is, admittedly, some hyperbole here.  None the less, the importance of First Turn starts to invalidate list choices, tactics, e.g.

OK, Dan, so you tell us there is a problem.  What to do about it?  There is no community solution here.  To affect any change that will not totally blow the current turn order out of the water is a job for the writers of 8th edition, if and when that ever arrives.  I still think it is worth at least talking about, since the more we discuss the need for change, the better our chances of having it occur...well, maybe.  So here are a couple of ideas for you to ponder.

turn03
Infinity Terrain
Two gaming systems that I have actually played that deal with turn order in a completely different way are Malifaux and Infinity.  Both, by the way, are "skirmish" games with a limited number (usually 10-15) of models to move about the table.  Malifaux uses a system that lets one player activate a single model, then the other player.  There are obviously mechanics that affect this, but in general it's "move mine - move yours."  With Infinity, each player generates an "order pool" based on the number of models they have.  Interestingly, there is no limit as to how the order can be used by individual models.  For example, if the order pool has 10 orders, one model could move 3 times and shoot twice.  Another could then shoot 5 times.  Additionally, there is a mechanic called "AROs" (Automatic Reaction Orders) that allows the player who is not actively using their order pool to respond to movement/shooting.  In both the case of Malifaux and Infinity, there is very little down time for either player in terms of affecting the game.  The "inactive" players is anything but, and actively participates in the game during the entire turn.  To me, this is the key area that could effectively deal with the inability to react to an opponents actions.  These and many other successful tabletop gaming systems have run, and run hard, away from the "you go - I go" mechanic.  It's time for 40K to do the same.

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One of the issues that 40K would have is the way it has segregated movement, psychic, shoot and assault into separate, sequenced phases.  It makes a transition to a more "interactive" system difficult...unless.  Why not use a mechanic similar to those above for only the shooting phase?  Limiting this type of mechanic to the shooting phase, which is where most of the Alpha Strike goodness is unleashed anyway, would leave intact the phases that don't require the tit-for-tat mechanic.  You shoot a unit, I fire back with a unit.  Does the unit returning fire have to be the one shot at?  Does a unit get to fire back even if it was eliminated by the shooting (simultaneous firing)?  These questions and a bazillion others are for the rules wonks to answer.   This type of change would of course lessen the impact of powerful units, in so much as it would allow opponents to respond with appropriate tactics.  Unlike the current meta, where your army sits helplessly and watches your opponent roll dice while you remove entire units from the tabletop.  Although Lords of War and Formations would still be powerful, at least it would allow both players to be active participants during the entire game turn.  Are there counters to powerful LoW and Formations?  Sure.  I get that.  But if the rest of your army is smacked off of the table by Turn 2, what good does it do?  Just as in the case of Alpha Strike examples, we could list dozens of counters for this or that LoW or Formation.  My question to you readers, is why do we have to rely on getting First Turn in order to use our counters or Alpha Strikes?  Is it the sign of a bad player if they rely too heavily on Alpha Striking?  Or is that just part of the competitive scene?  I am not saying folks don't get tabled in Malifaux or Infinity...I have been both victim and perpetrator in both games.  Between two pretty evenly matched players, it is however, pretty rare.
turn05

Final thought.  Is it even possible to move to a more flexible/tactical system in 40K?  We are usually talking several dozen models (40K) vs. one dozen (Malifaux/Infinity) after all.  But wait...isn't a unit in 40K the equivalent of a model in a skirmish game?  For the most part, they act together during each phase of a turn.  So how are my 12 Space Marine units different than 12 Infinity models in terms of say, shooting? The number of dice is way different, but how different are they really in terms of final effect on the model/unit?  A single model takes wounds, a unit takes wounds.  A single model checks for morale and a unit checks for morale.  A single model fires its weapons, a single unit fires their weapons.  Something to consider.

Your thoughts on the "I go - you go" model we currently play with?

6 comments:

  1. If 40K changes to this kind of system players will change their list to exploit the new system. My own Loota mobs regularly achieve very little of note. My Green tide on the other hand couldn't care less about Alpha strike lists.
    I played Warzone and Chronopia way back when, the one thing that both of those fine games have in common that no one seems to have applied to this dream of the "new 40K" is action points. Action points were used to move, run aim charge shoot all that. And even in a game like that we still had Alpha strike units. Look up a unit called Free Marines. they would infiltrate and set up with a wait action. Much like second edition 40K's Overwatch.
    So beyond an alternating activation system How would the rest of the game work?
    Bother of the games I mentioned were Skirmish level games and played very well.
    I think 40K could have gone that rout as a change to the second edition rules and worked very well. I don't quite see it working with 7th edition. It would be interesting to see if it could be done but not exclusively in the name of making competitive play better.

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    1. I agree that no matter how the rule set is changed, it will always be exploited. Also, I think the change in mechanic would be good for all play, competitive or otherwise.

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    2. Maybe we'll get lucky. I am sure GW has a few rule sets or ideas for them that some of their rules teams have been mucking around with over they years. Mostly because I think at their core rules writers are creative people. I'd definitely like to see an alternating activation system for a game like Necromunda or Gorka Morka, if those comes back through Specialist games one day. I remember Inquisitor had an interesting rules set. I'm not sure 54MM miniatures was the right way to go with that.... But an interesting rules sen none the less.
      If you don't recall they used action points. but you nominated your actions in the order you wished to take them Then rolled a D6 for every action point you were trying to use. You needed like 4+ to do those actions and they had to be done in order. An unfortunate models may move out of cover then fail to shoot, finding it self just standing there. This might work well for 40K. But I'd keep the D6 based game. I think Inquisitor was percentage based for shooting and other things.
      But given 3 action points their units may or may not be able to use players would have to make decisions and hope for a bit of luck. A death Star type unit may fail to make assault for an extra turn or an alpha strike shooting list might fail to get the "order" to shoot. But we're still talkin a whole new game system with new books for all the armies. Which may be a reason not to move it directly into/onto 40K. Oh, wait..Gw isn't a rules company.. lol.

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    3. I do remember Inquisitor, mainly because I was reading the Eisenhorn novels at the time and the minatures were of interest.

      Your comment about keeping the D6 system is of interest and an aspect I did not discuss in this post; but one that may be interesting to discuss in the future. Infinity uses a D20 and Malifaux combines a D6 with a card deck.

      I am also a huge fan of Necromunda, and did enjoy the alternating activation system. That is one more option for 40K in the future. As you say, however, GW is not a rules company...riiiight.

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    4. Both Warzone and Chranopia both used a D20. But Low numbers were good, a 1 to hit was an unsaveable wound. One thing these systems didn't do was a to wound rill Just a to hit the a save vs Damage, what ever number subtracted from the save number. something like that, It's been years now...
      My friend plays Infinity and lot of other new games. He's going to help me get started in that this next year. I like the D6 for the simplicity. I think we were reading the same books about the same time there. Ha ha. Have you tried Operation Kill Zone yet? It was more geared for 5th edition 40K and I thing it's got more depth to it than Kill team although it very close to the same game with some tweaks. You might like that. (It's FREE!!!)
      We'd best be careful.. Don't want to wright a new game and in the comments and have it swiped by the evil overlords at GW.

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  2. That's the thing I most enjoyed of Betrayal at Calth game system, the 2 action points per unit and alternate unit activations. I bet that system is plausible in regular 40k. I wish 8º ed 40k is like that.

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