40k: Assault, Terrain, and Meta
So the latest edition of 40k has been around for a bit now, and it's pretty common knowledge that Shooting is king. After playing many games in my FLGS, I've noticed that Assault armies are doing just fine, but in tournaments, the same players that do fine on their home turf, do awfully in a tournament setting. I set about to think why this would be. The first thought I had was that the players at my FLGS are just not of the caliber of your typical tournament player. I was actually quite content with this idea for a long time, after all, I hadn't heard any other compelling arguments of why I should assume it's anything to the contrary. Across the world people with assault armies were at a disadvantage to shooty armies... Doing what I do, and mulling about with my Chaos Marines, I started to play the army with more and more assault elements, and I found that it wasn't utter garbage. This got me to thinking again, what if there was another cause of Assault armies doing poorly in tournaments this edition?
How Charging Changed
In 6th edition, we have Overwatch, which gives people a chance to shoot at assaulting units before they make it into combat, which is often cited as a major advantage to shooting armies, since casualties are now removed from the front, you could overwatch the 1 model actually in charge range and deny a charge. This option was never available before, so is an easy scape goat, personally however, I've noticed that I rarely have failed a charge due to this, so I wanted to do a bit more thinking on the subject. We now have HP on vehicles, meaning transports are far easier to kill from across the board, and additionally, you can't charge from a stationary transport. Both of those are pretty profound and help to demolish Assault based armies, combined with Overwatch, I believe we have the culprit, a lot more ways to kill fast assaulting units, with no added advantage to armies that don't shoot. But could GW have been so blind? Could they have purposely given shooting a huge advantage because they'd rather sell model toys with guns rather than model toys with swords?
It's pretty easy to point the finger at GW, saying they don't know how to balance, etc., but I refuse to believe that they're total idiots. Call me idealistic, but I just had to figure out how they expected to compensate for all these bonuses. What if GW actually wrote in the rules for how to make Assault armies work, it's just that the rules themselves are often ignored and overlooked?
Doing some soul searching, and really paying attention to how we play at my local store, versus how a tournament is played, I noticed something that I never thought of before. At my local club, we follow ALL the rules in the book. We set up the board with Terrain Density, use mysterious terrain, objectives, etc., rules which are often ignored entirely in tournaments, as the board is set up for you.
In previous editions, it was recommended that 25% of the board board be covered by terrain, and pretty much it's been played that way ever since. That 25% margin was very easy to estimate, and led to many fun games in 5th edition, here is a great example of a board with ~25% terrain coverage, from Front Line Gaming.
As we can see, there are essentially 9 pieces of terrain, fairly spread out across the board. 4 pieces of area terrain, 2 buildings and 3 hills, plus 2 single sections of wall (though GW sells them in sets of 3).
In 6th edition, they suggest you play with a rule called Terrain Density, which is just D3 pieces of terrain per 2'x2' section. This leads to an average of 12 pieces of terrain, evenly spread out across the board. To keep things from getting too bunched up, you are also not supposed to place one piece of terrain within 3" of another piece. Looking through GW's official terrain, their woods and craters markers are all about 6-10" across in either dimension, bastions are about 6"x6", and their assembled ruins are about 6-10" square. Once you cover a board with a dozen of these pieces of terrain, you end up with a significantly different experience than if you only do about 9 pieces.
More terrain dummy! It will probably take a lot of effort, and possibly even an act of Ward, but tournaments need more terrain to work in 6th edition. 9 Pieces of terrain is only 75% of what the average board is supposed to have now, so when the edition changed to give more advantages to shooty armies, they also increased the amount of terrain, which lowers range and LOS of shooty armies, giving the combat armies cover as they advance.
To give you an idea, this is what a board looks like with 12 pieces of terrain:
Ignoring the Aegis Defense line, this table has:
- 4 Buildings
- 1 Ruins
- 1 Landing Pad
- 4 Woods
- 2 Craters
That's precisely 12 pieces of terrain. They should realistically be a little more spread out, but this gives you a solid idea of what a board looks like with an adequate amount of terrain. On this kind of a board, a combat army would have quite a bit of terrain to advance through or behind protecting them from enemy (read Tau/Eldar) fire power, actually giving them a chance to close the gap and charge into combat, instead of the old 25% board which would see them shot out in no mans land every time. So I say, go out and buy some damn woods!
Vive la Vegetation!