Monday 18 November 2013

Hacking 40K: Getting Rid of "Barrage Sniping"

This is not a sniper's weapon
Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition has been around long enough now that I am not afraid to start proposing a few hacks, or house rules, that I am considering that might improve on some of the less ideal parts of 6th Edition. Its a big boy now. It can cope.

Those of you who read the 40K forums and blogosphere will have probably come across the idea of barrage sniping. For those of you who have not - here is a brief summary. People who already know - hush now, let everyone else catch up.

In usual shooting attacks, casualties are taken from the closest model to the firer. The two exceptions to this are precision fire and barrage weapons. Precision fire is meant to represent both individual characters and snipers' abilities to pick out a particularly dangerous individual and shoot them. It works if you roll a 6 to hit.

Barrage weapons - that is to say, indirect fire weapons which use a blast marker - take their casualties from the centre of the blast marker, and not from the closest model to the firer. There are two "hit" markers on the scatter dice, so this allows barrage weapons to select the person to take the hit first twice as often as snipers and characters. This is even more effective as it means that every hit caused by the template is applied first to the model hit - so the melta gunner has to survive maybe four to six hits.

The intent of the "from the centre of the blast marker" was clearly to make it look cinematic and cool. Instead, it means that massive artillery pieces at the far side of the battle field are, mathematically, more effective than precision snipers at picking off an individual model.

Don't get me wrong - the United States government has been showing for quite a while that a cruise missile or air strike is a perfectly effective means of long ranged assassination - but currently, it seems just too disproportionately good. It shouldn't be a precise weapon - it should be something that achieves long range assassination by reducing everything in the target zone to a fine red mist.

Possible fixes

There are two possible fixes I've considered. I'd love it if a few people who use barrage weapons a lot could have a go with them and give some feedback - I sadly don't have much in the way of heavy artillery painted up yet, and my glacial painting speed means that won't be fixed soon...

  1. Use your blast markers as usual to determine the number of hits. Then, randomise who takes all the hits. Assign every hit a barrage weapon causes to a random model in the unit.
  2. Use your blast markers as usual to determine the number of hits. Then, randomise who now counts as the "centre of blast", then apply the rules as normal from then on.
I suspect the first option will be much too slow, and the second option is "just right" - but I would like people's opinions on that. The third option would have been to randomise who the blast marker is centred on to start with, then scatter as normal and apply from the centre of blast. That, however, reduces the ability of the firer to maximise the number of models they are trying to hit, and reduces people's abilities to aim blast markers to aim for the "centre of mass" of a unit in the hope of getting the most casualties.

What do people think? Is anyone willing to give it a go?


  1. my rules knowledge is quite rusty so I may be wrong but isn't there a rule now close to the WHFB one for a generic trooper to take the hit in place of a character?
    It wouldn't prevent from sniping special weapons and unit leaders though...

    Anyway, I've always used markers to determine the number of models touched and then distributed wounds like any for any other shooting phase. This may not be right rule-wise but at least we don't snipe (with barrage weapons) between friends. ^^

    1. For normal blast weapons, like Battle Cannons or Frag Missiles, yes, that's right - you take from the front like normal. Mortars, Basilisks and Colossus and so on - they do it differently.

      There is a "Look Out Sir" rule - it works for all characters, including unit leaders, but it works for even most sniper shots. But the effectiveness of accurately allocating half a dozen hits from, say, a Basilisk shell onto many characters will eventually do for them by the sheer number of hits allocated - you have to "Look Out Sir" successfully over and over and over again!

    2. I get it, thanks for the explanation. I'm sometimes (most of the time in fact) missing most of the innuendos between rules lines...

  2. Brilliant.

    Brilliant brilliant brilliant. (point 2, that is). I like it a lot - you should write (personally) to Jarvis. he does read stuff and often replies.

    I want to bump this post on my blog. If I havent done so by the weekend, please drop me a reminder and I'll do so. Nice work.

  3. I will try and remember to remind you! I may write to Jervis - but I will need to recall my penmanship and find my quill pen.

    I have some other hacks too - some Chaos Space Marine ones, and one for Dreadnoughts / vehicles. But I worry that those of my readers who don't play would be very sad if I didn't break it up with other hobby content.

    Hell, I've got two battle reports to write up with all the photos just sitting in the upload account!

  4. I like the sound of it, great suggestion. We still play where the player chooses his own casualties, snipers only get to pick their casualty on a roll to hit of 6.

  5. Ditto the above, me and H use a mish mash of 4th to 6th Edition - but the general rule is the controlling player can always remove his own casualties, with the exception of snipers who've rolled a six to hit. That's always the case, even when only one model in an enemy unit is in range and it happens to be the sergeant or a HW trooper.

    I think our main motivation is making a fluffy game and preventing beardiness, with the heroic sergeant emerging from the smoke after the artillery barrage...

    1. Scipio - I would recommend trying out the 6th Edition "take models from the front" method if you haven't already. Once you've practiced it a couple of times, it is quite intuitive, and you can still have some nice narratives come out of it (with a little less player control) - a brave sergeant getting cut down because he stood out in the front of his men, some new recruit being the last survivor but still doing something heroic - there's a lot of potential. If you've tried them and don't like them, fair play, but with the barrage sniping exception, I've found they are also pretty good at avoiding beardiness to start out.