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Thursday, 14 June 2012

Random Charge Distance Is A Totally Unfun Mechanic

I got into a discussion yesterday with a fairly esteemed chap who is of the opinion that Random Charge Distance, as in 8e WFB, is A Fun Thing, and in no way detrimental to both game balance and to players' ability to enjoy the game.



The comparison he chose to draw, was predicated on the usage of dice in the game.

For him, it's an entirely valid comparison to say that, while yes, the chance exists that you'll fail to reach the foe and be left stranded in the open, this is entirely fair because a) the same can happen to your opponent, and b) you can whiff all your attacks if you reach combat anyway and get wiped out in your own turn.

Putting aside that, in 5e, shooting >>>> assault [yeah, I never finished the article in response to Hulksmash about that, and frankly there isn't much point now...sorry...] this is a terrible and false comparison.

You see, where you move random distances to engage in the close combat you (and not necessarily your opponent,) want, it's a purely binary system.  Pass/Fail.  You either reach him and get the chance to inflict the damage you want (typically, you'll generate a bonus* for charging) or you'll fail and be left exposed in the Highland breeze, with your kilt around your ankles, and the enemy gleefully bringing their Rapid Fire weaponry to bear, or gearing up for an assault of their own, which will generate them some sort of bonus themselves, and TYPICALLY failure will leave your unit high, dry, and splattered against the horizon.

When we're talking about using dice as simple random number generators to determine combat results, we have a multi-faceted system, wherein we have a broad spectrum of possible results.  Sure, we have the nightmarish scenario outlined above, where you whiff all your attacks and get sodomised six ways from Sunday - but we also have the opposite, and equally likely (actually, it's usually a lot more likely, but we'll touch on that in a moment) scenario in which you completely annihilate your opponent's forces, and emerge victoriously consolidating out of LoS, or into a handy terrain feature that gives 4++ or better.

There is no legitimate comparison between something with an equal possibility of overwhelming success as devastating failure and something with only devastating failure and a success that barely even counts as such.

That said, it's FAR from equal chance.  Players assault things, in 40k, with assaulty units, most of the time (or rather, psuedo-assault units like Grey Hunters, Assault Marines and Purifiers) and they are attempting to engage shooty units, such as Long Fangs, Imperial Guard, or whatever.  Rarely does a CC unit willfully engage another CC unit, mostly through desperation (ohai, you have Wraith squads in the middle of my parking lot? Disembark entire army, blare Olivia Newton-John from the Razorback stereos) and such if a CC unit gets left unable to reach, chances are the opponent won't even try to engage - they'll kite by scuttling away, or they'll remain stationary and batter you.  CC units successfully reaching non-CC units, or charging shitfest bollocks units like Ork Boyz (that are only even slightly viable in CC when THEY do the Assaulting.  Charging Orks is like using a staple gun on a field of balloons.) tend to deal srs damage.  Odds are, then, that you're more likely to do a horrific amount of damage than lose.  A BA Assault squad Furiously Charging Tau Fire Warriors results in hilarity.  The FW will be hit on 3s (12 hits) wounded on 2s (10) and save half (so 5 die, on average) but even if you whiff and somehow kill none, the FW get 6 dice back, half hit, a third wound, 3+ armour...it's POSSIBLE that they'll kill 6 Marines, the Marines break - and then, being Marines, they come back and kick your shit in in revenge.  The odds of Marines killing an extra guy are clearly FAR greater than the infinitesimal chance of the FW doing that.

So, the odds aren't equal, and it's a bad comparison.  Anything else? Well, of course, we don't know how exactly the other assault rules would function, and I've encountered the theory that it's necessary to balance assault.

Bullshit.

There is no possible way that could be the case, because if assault units aren't reliable (see HERE for a brief analysis of how their reach is/could be reduced) then they simply can't be that powerful.  So what if you always win combat? As long as MSU exists, I feed you a unit (assuming you REACH!) and then obliterate you by simply not wasting points on CC elements.

Shooting >>>> CC, in 6th Edition.

Of this, I have no doubt.



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* - Naturally, the most basic bonus for charging is the +1A that usually happens, though of course Defensive Grenades exist and aren't exactly the least common things in the world.  Apart from that though, there are a range of things from Furious Charge to further bonus Attacks, to activating Grenades or other Wargear...Getting the charge in is A Big Deal in 40k, much bigger than it is now in WFB, though in previous Editions of WFB when it allowed you to strike first irrespective of Initiative it was vitally important too - oh, and they removed that.  If that's a hint as to 40k's direction I don't know, but it bodes ill.  :(

2) The pic, apparently from BoK(?) is what we'll all be like, flopping like a legless zombie towards the life we detect without hope or expectation of reaching it before being obliterated like the worthless carcass-in-waiting we are.  Anyone looking to buy a shit-ton of Orks?
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