Friday, 21 October 2011

The Problem with Plasma Guns and Power Weapons

I'll have a "P" please Bob

As I was putting these lists together, I realised that I was putting in some things that I never use - Power Weapons and Plasma Guns. Rapid-firing S7 AP2 guns and ignoring armour in close combat; what's not to love? Well, that brings me to my only major gripe with the 5th edition rules. Sure, there are some minor things that need tidying up but nothing like this:

You can be too killy

Imagine the situation where you're rapid firing at a 5-man Grey Hunter pack containing one guy with a Meltagun. You manage to do 2 Plasma Gun wounds and 4 Bolter wounds. So, now I can stick the 2 AP2 wounds on the unfortunate Meltagun guy and then take 4 saves against the four remaining guys. In essence you've "lost" a wound.

Power Weapons have the same issue since they go at the same initiative step as the rest of your normal attacks.

Now, I know that some people say that this is realistic, since if you're firing your Plasma Gun twice, you're just as likely to hit the same guy twice. However, we're playing a game featuring 8 foot tall genetically engineered supermen from 38,000 years in the future so realism doesn't really come into it!

Plus, when it comes down to it, people prefer the strength-doubling properties of Power Fists and the vehicle destroying goodness of Meltaguns...

Hopefully, we'll see a tweak to wound allocation in 6th edition that means you have to allocate armour-denying saves first and then allocating other wounds afterwards. It would be nice to see Plasma Guns and Power Weapons becoming a viable alternative to the ubiquitous Melta and Fist if only to give some variety to the armies you come up against.

Proud of Plasma? Pulling for Power Weapons? Let us know


  1. The problem is not that you are too killy.  The problem is that the application of the Wound Allocation rules is entirely different than the intention of the rules.  The rules got written to prevent you from keeping that powerfist Sgt or missile launcher alive until the very end by forcing you to evenly spread out the shots.  Instead, allowcating each weapon type separately instead of just rolling separately and applying them to the squad often results in lost wound, squads equipped individually to pull off shenanigans, etc.

    The 3rd-4th method made perfect sense in most cases (powerfists not so much) because the remaining marines would pick up the better weapon and start kicking some ass with it.  Why would you leave the missile launcher laying on the ground?  Were you absent on the day they taught that class at Space Marine school?

  2. But in the Grey Hunters example, even though you are technically killing one fewer model than you "should," you're also killing off the most important model (the Meltagun.) And, more often than not, models will get SOME kind of save (armor, invulnerable, cover) against your attacks, albeit not in close combat, so putting two Plasma wounds on the Meltagunner just means he has to pass two 4+s instead of one.

    I think most people drastically overestimate the problems with wound allocation; it does occasionally result in some annoying situations (most commonly with Rending in close combat and differentiated models), but 95+% of the time it's fine. It's not as though the old wound system didn't have problems of its own (WHY IS THE LASCANNON GUY IMMORTAL?!)

  3. Except when it wasn't a piece of wargear that could be passed around (the Power Fist you mention) or was a specific model (like a squad leader), etc. Both systems have their problems, but I feel wound allocation is much more fair and obviates the need for complicated mixed-armor rules.

  4. I agree with Abusepuppy.

    If you want to try and get around the 'problem' then in the case of the plasma gun, just fire the plasma gun and maybe a bolter or two. You're allowed to not fire weapons from a squad, you just have to declare it before you start rolling dice. Of course the problem that will arise then is the plasma gun will miss both shots, Murphy's Law :)

    Power weapons still have a place but you have to work them into the right units. I know not the competitive player's preference, but a power sword on something like Tact Marines works because you have a mediocre unit in close combat so odds are you're not sticking on enough wounds to wrap around the power weapon ones to a single model.

    When it comes to units that are better at assault then you want to stick those power weapons at different initiatives. Take 10 Assault Marines (alright, so they're OK at assault, regardless). They have an attached HQ of some sort with a power weapon so he's I5 or better. Being he's the only one at that initiative in the unit then his wounds are not wrapping. Then you go to I4 with the normal ASM, all normal attacks. Lastly, you have your Sarge with a fist at I1 and again the only one at that step.

  5. It always feels a bit like Doublethink to me - I want to kill more so I'll shoot less lol

  6. Yeah, I can't argue the irony with that.



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