Friday, July 13, 2012

Power Weapons in 6th Edition


I've been reading a lot of discussion about power weapons lately. Mostly, it seems to be about how none of the options except the power fist are worthwhile any more. I really don't think this is the case, and I though I'd weigh in.

First, the power fist is still the most dangerous and flexible option. That really hasn't changed. It really lives up to its cost now. It's most common competitor, the thunder hammer, lost its effect on vehicles, so now it's not really worth the additional cost above power fists. It still reduces any model it hits to I1, so it's useful against characters (that it doesn't instakill) and monstrous creatures.

Power swords are now "only" AP3. This does hurt their usefulness against very heavy infantry, such as Terminators, Meganobs, or Sanguinary Guard. However, most enemy infantry are still easy prey for power swords. Swords are a the well-rounded option, cutting through most armor without sacrificing initiative. Despite the reduction to AP3, I think power swords got better in some ways. First, the challenge rules allow power weapon sergeants to challenge enemy characters with I1 weapons and try to kill them before they can strike. This will be a great way to dispatch enemy power fists before they damage your squad. Second, the way wounds are now allocated requires that they be divided by AP value. This means that power sword attacks can't be swamped out by other attacks at the same initiative, as happened in 5th Edition. I really think power swords are back to being a viable upgrade on a sergeant. As before, the lightning claw slightly edges out the power sword, so is a better buy if you have the model.

Power axes are the next option, and they grant the user +1 S and are AP2. Sounds great, but they also reduce the user to I1. For marine vs marine combat, the power axe actually beats out the power fist. Wounding on 3+ with an extra attack for two weapons beats out wounding on a 2+ (which you can do with Furious Charge).  For pure infantry killing power, the power axe beats out power fists and lightning claws and is able to take on Terminators.

The power maul is the next option, and is commonly seen on Chaplains and Librarians. It strikes at initiative and grants +2 strength, but its failing is that it's only AP4. It has the same ability as the thunder hammer to reduce models it hits to I1. This makes it the worst option for killing marines but the best for killing anything with a 4+ save or less. It'll even do a reasonable job of taking apart most vehicles. Given how common heavy infantry is, it does look like power mauls are the least useful option. I expect they'll mostly see use on models that have to take them like Chaplains and Librarians. These models will now be purchased mostly for their support powers rather than their killing power, but are still worthwhile. Don't discount them in close-combat though. They'll tear through any non-MEQ infantry.

Finally, we have the power lance. On the charge, it's +1 S and AP 3, but it's only AP4 when not charging. It could be useful on fast models that you expect will be charging more often than not, but it won't do much if you don't charge or get stuck in a protracted combat. I expect it will see most use on jump infantry, bikes, and cavalry, and even then, mostly for aesthetic reasons.

So there you have it. No single type of power weapon is the best in all situations, but each one does have its uses. Whereas power fists used to be undisputably the best choice, swords and axes now are equally useful option, particularly given their lower points cost. The new rules provide us all with a lot more useful options and make things much more interesting, I think.


  1. "Second, the way wounds are now allocated requires that they be divided be AP value. This means that power sword attacks can't be swamped out by other attacks at the same initiative, as happened in 5th Editions."

    This really intrigued me but I couldn't find where this ruling is. Would you mind telling me where you found it?

    Thanks in advance!!!

  2. No problem. On pg 25 describing Assault, it says that "wounds are allocated starting with the closest model, just like in the shooting phase." This sends us back to pg 15, describing how to allocate wounds and remove casualties. In the box "Mixed Wounds" in the lower right corner, it says that wound pools with different strengths, APs, or special rules may be resolved in any order the attacking player wishes.

    This gives you more control, but it's really the basic wound allocation rules of 6th that mean every wound can cause a casualty. Because wounds are essentially allocated one at a time and the model makes a saving throw before moving on to the next wound (though this may be done in groups in the case of similar models taking a single wound pool), it's impossible to have a 1 wound model absorb more than 1 wound. This is in contrast to 5th Edition wound allocation, where all wounds were allocated before any saves were rolled. This would allow the player being attacked to stack all the low AP wounds on a single unimportant model while the rest of the squad took the low AP wounds, meaning that low AP attacks that happened at the same time as lots of basic attacks (as in a power sword sergeant leading an assault squad) rarely were able to kill more than one model.

    I hope that helps.

    1. Ok cool, that's how we were playing. Thanks for the clarification :)


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