It has been one year since sixth edition has dropped. With any change, it takes time for players to adapt to new rules and sequence of play. That learning slows the game down. Once players become familiar with the rules, play picks up speed and no one looks back.
The current edition has not seen this ramp up in speed. Blame falls on the number of pre-game rolls required, such psychic powers and warlord traits. A common concern among tournament organizers & players alike is how to squeeze 5-7 turns of play into a time limit to keep the event on track. There are two schools of thought on this situation. Many tournaments have lowered their points limit, following the logic that smaller armies play quicker. Others have added more time to each round, though no one can agree what is an appropriate time limit for a round.
Does full game of 40k still need 6 turns to count?
Right now, the thought of a tournament game going only 3 turns leaves both players feeling ripped off. A chorus “if the game had gone 5 turns…” ensues where both players have a yarn to tell of how victory would have been theirs.
Baseball is one of the few professional sports that postpone or cancel games due to inclement weather. (American) Football has storied legends of games played in blizzard like conditions, but baseball is prone to the rain out. The umpire has the power to call for a delay, hoping the storm will pass. In the event the storm does not let up, the umpire has two options: they can resume the game later, or if the game has gone 6 of the 9 innings, it is called a completed game.
I am using baseball since the sport has a similar turn sequence as 40k. Each Game Turn (inning) is split in half, where one team bats (moving & shooting into scoring positions) and another is the field (defending, making saves). Should the game end abruptly, mid Game Turn, players may not get equal number of turns. I still catch crap from my buddy who I play Fantasy Baseball with, where my pitcher got a complete game shutout for a game that went only 6 innings. [To translate, it would be like getting First Blood & Warlord, then the TO called dice down before you could roll It Will Not Die or Resurrection Protocols in his turn]
The Way We Were
Looking at previous editions in 40k compared to the current 6th edition, phases of the turn not as exclusive as they were. Back in Third Edition, units moved in the movement phase, shot in the shooting phase, and beat face in the assault phase with a little movement for the charge. There were no run moves, Jump Shoot Jump in the assault phase, or Overwatch.
The average player knew that over the course of a 6 turn game, that an infantry unit would move at most 6 times, or 36” over the course of the battle. They would shoot six times, making easy to compute number of hits, then wounds, then kills over 6 turns. The number of assaults would vary from player to player, army to army, but I do not seem to recall any Turn 2 Assaults back in those days, and charges were still only 6”. Heavy weapon units, like Devastators and Havocs, would trade movement for shooting. Back then there was no Snap Fire, so if you moved, you did not shoot. Assault units did nothing in the shooting phase, hoping to be in range next time for a charge.
Back to the Future
Just like champion chess players who can predict “Checkmate in 6 moves”, the older game was a much more controlled environment. Today’s game has more options in each phase. Going back to basic unit, they have the option to move in the movement phase. They can shoot in the shooting phase, or run.
How quickly we forget, it was not that long ago the bolters only had a range of 12” if the model moved. The effective threat range varied from 18 to 24”. Today the same bolter-wielding marine has a 30” threat range, so 25% more shooting. His buddy with the Lascannon can still snap shot even if he moved. Ok, not that accurate, but another shot you did not have before.
Moving forward to the assault phase, charge ranges are now 2d6. The 12” charge is rare, but 9” are still common, again about 28% more than before. Moreover, with Overwatch back, a charged unit gets to shoot again, in the opponent’s assault phase. We have not even touched upon psykers who can cast multiple witchfire powers, and nova powers that target every unit in range. Several codex specific powers, like Battle Focus, Jet Packs, and Get Back into the Fight further expand a unit’s actions within a phase.
The current game of 40k allows you so many addition options in phase, the average unit moves further, shooting more often, and assaulting from longer distances. The overall “number of moves” in a game of 40k has increased by at least 25% when compared to 3rd edition.
Using our baseball comparison, each team has at least 27 at bats (3 outs times 9 innings) to score a run. If a baseball player can do 25% more in an at bat then before, it is like having 34 at bats per game, or 11+ innings. Looking at another way, a baseball player who can do 25% more can accomplish the same amount in 20 at bats than their predecessors did in 27 at bats.
If the average 40k units can do 25% more in the current edition than before, they are actually accomplishing the same number of moves, shots and attacks in 4.5 turns that 3rd edition armies did in 6 turns.
Which leaves us with this question for discussion: Does a complete 40k game need to be 6 turns? Alternatively, is 4-5 turns of the 6th edition game equivalent to a 6 turn 3rd edition game?
Look forward to your thoughts.