Thursday, 26 March 2020

The Ninth Gate: Charge and Melee

Image result for psychic combat

Back with more misguided predictions! It's almost as though I'm stuck indoors with not enough to do. Today, let's look at the close combat phase and the phase that gets you there. Onwards!

Historical Reenactment

Of all the phases in the game, I'd say close combat has seen the most change in the new edition.

Image result for bad LARP battle
"No, I still have a rank bonus, so I win!"

Way back when, in first and second edition, charging was done in the movement phase. Once you were in, the attacking unit was tied up through the psychic and shooting phases, and usually not terribly useful during that time. Now you can weaken a target on the way in, blasting away with your guns as you close the distance.

Overwatch was once a very different thing too. You gave up a round of shooting on a unit (and sometimes movement too) to have a round of reaction shooting at some point in your opponent's turn. This was fun, if a bit clunky - the tactical element of setting up ambushes or covering fire across chokepoints felt fun on the tabletop. Eldar hover tanks with their pop-up attacks were very vicious unless you planned to counter them in this way, for example.

Losing it makes the game flow faster and smoother, which is fine. They also took away the old charge reaction system, where you had to opt to stand and shoot. Or just leg it, voluntarily breaking your unit to avoid a whipping! Boy, do I miss that sometimes.

Image result for run away python

The new system, a free round of really terrible shooting, is a funny compromise between these two systems. I like it, it works fine, but it feels like another workaround to me, a nod to the complexity of older systems rather than a brilliant new one.

Mind you, it does make melee much more viable in a gun-based game, and that's a very good thing. So does the combat system itself, which is faster and simpler. Remember the old way? Where you rolled a dice per attack, added your WS plus any modifiers, picked the best dice and compared this result to your opponent's best result and the difference was the number of hits? Fancy doing that for each model in your 50-strong Ork pack, anyone? And then having to redo half of them when your opponent forces parry rerolls?

Image result for parry meme

Having chargers always go first is another strong change, that removes the bother of initiative systems (and thus another seldom-used stat). And the Heroic Intervention rule is lovely! Bounding characters rushing to protect the minions, that's a great idea. They ought to be protecting the troops if they're really heroes, after all.

If the new system is all working well, what might change?

I Am Not Left-Handed

Image result for i am not left handed

Here's my prediction. Nothing will change!

I actually think the melee phase and the charge phase are working just fine. Sure, you could tweak it in all kinds of ways. Better Overwatch. No Overwatch. Cheaper interruptions. Bring back parries. Let people fall back as a charge reaction. But would any of this make it a better system?

Personally, I don't think it needs fixing. It ain't broke. Doesn't mean I'm right, though...

Likelihood of Change: 95%. Better make a couple of guesses in case I'm wrong, though.

I'm Not Left-Handed Either

Image result for why are you smiling princess bride

Forget that. Let's say that you can now run away as a charge reaction. There's a few unit abilities or Warlord Traits that do similar things, after all. But because it's a game changer that spoils your opponent's fun, let's make it a 3 CP strategem.

You can save one unit from the chargers, then. And a wise opponent could plan ahead, surround you so there's nowhere to run. And the fleeing unit can't do anything next turn - no movement, shooting or powers. The chicken-livered nogoodniks. Bet you wished they'd staying in combat now, eh?

Likelihood of Change: 5%. I don't really think so, but you never know. 

You Can't Kill What You Can't See

Image result for blur of speed

The main thing that gives shooty armies an advantage over fighty ones is the whole bonus of killing people before they're anywhere near you. Melee units will usually be rushing to close the distance as fast as possible, advancing so they can't shoot. This is still a balance problem in 8th ed, which definitely favours weight of fire and shooting. Which is fine! That's how future combat probably ought to work.

Would it be appalling to give all advancing units a -1 to hit, accounting for their speed and dodginess?

Yes, I mean obviously, you'd have to rebalance a ton of other stuff. And it would also turn Advance into a defensive ability too. It used to be there, back in the day - if a unit moved more than 10", it was fast and thus hard to hit. More than 20" got you a -2 penalty, even. And you'd have to say it didn't stack with other similar abilities, like jinking bikers and so on.

Maybe if it was just on an advance roll of 6, something like that, make it an added bonus to the speed. Or that a unit that hadn't moved got to ignore this penalty as they take careful aim. Same as the suggestion above, though, I don't think it would improve the game.

There is something about balancing the game very slightly in favour of melee armies, though, that might benefit everyone. Except the T'au, of course, but that's okay.

Likelihood of Change: 1%. Like I said, it's an outside chance at best!

Nearly done with the predictomancy. Next - Morale...


  1. I agree. Most of the potential "improvements" would probably make close combat less effective and that would be a bad thing as shooting already has a huge advantage generally. That's not to say it won't happen of course...

  2. There's a lot of intricacies to the Charge and Fight Phase that generally aren't appreciated but can be valuable if mastered - what unit gets 'tagged' in combat; who piles in, and in what direction; pile-in and consolidation moves when there is no more enemy to fight etc.

    Having tried to wrap my head around them, I quite like them now - although I do wonder if they are a Gordian Knot that will be simplified in the next edition.

  3. There was one change I suddenly remembered I wanted to suggest!

    In close combat, I think you should be obliged to remove casualties who are in base combat first.

    The way piling in works at the moment, it would make very little difference to the number of attacks you generally get out of a unit, because if you want to pile the survivors in, you can. In close quarters, it makes more sense that you could pick off the priority targets, and it's rather more immersive than killing only the back rows of that termagant tar pit you landed in.

    1. By the same token, shouldn't units getting shot remove the ones closest to the firing unit too? I feel that opens up a can of micro-measuring worms that would just slow the play down.

      Also, removing from the front may not affect the volume of attacks, but it could affect whether a unit gets wrapped and trapped in combat.

    2. Picking where your casualties fall lets you manipulate wrapping and trapping anyway, generally in your own favour. And yes, you can definitely make the same argument for shooting, but I'd like it as a weight in favour of melee myself.

      I'm not a fan of slowing the game down, or making it fiddly. Hence I don't say this is a prediction - just something I personally prefer.