So 6th ed has been out for almost a year and I thought I would take the time to talk about this latest edition and where it has taken us. First off I will be clear that I really like this edition. Can't say I love it as there are issues with it still, but I think it is one of the best seen so far.
The Myth of Shooty
This latest edition has been labeled as heralding in the age of shooty armies dominating the board. While I don't think this is a completely accurate picture, 6th is certainly very favorable to armies that bring the firepower. With the major changes to wound allocation (its great and fluffy!), adding over watch and random charge distance, it has combined to really make shooting a heavy focus of the game and made assaults tougher to pull off reliably. But I disagree that it has some how brought the end to assault, since I have seen and experienced it many times. What it has done is change the dynamic of assault armies to a degree that many had trouble adapting to. With the buffs to shooting, simply getting across the board and charging is no longer enough, the assault units have to survive the killing field (they always have, nothing new here) to get into combat. What changed with 6th was the tactics needed to do this. For some armies spamming bodies and soaking up wounds was a viable tactic and can still be effective when used with cunning generalship and taking advantage of terrain. For others more support is needed to get into the fray and it is far more likely than in previous editions to die in route. But this doesn't signal the end of assault, just that it is harder to accomplish.
Another point I would like to bring up is that it is supposed to be the far future, with advanced weaponry and planet killing ships. Fighting with swords should be harder. I'm sorry, this is the future and we have lots of guns, get used to it. Now that being said, this does not mean assault armies are handicapped. And for a moment I would like to talk semantics and go over two words/phrases and the important differences between the two: Assault & Close Combat. These two are very close and yet very different, one focus totally on one thing, hand to hand. The other implies the use of close in fighting and firepower to overwhelm the enemy with speed and aggression. The main issue here is how players label themselves and their armies, too many say "But I have a close combat army", no you don't you have an assault army and trust me there is a huge difference.
The difference mainly is that I have seen many with these assault armies neglect their firepower because they are supposedly not good at shooty and therefor need to focus on their assault. This is wrong, a good assault army will not win a long range slug match true, but it needs the firepower to ensure it can support the assault. Now firepower is one thing that is needed, the other is getting across the killing field and into the enemy. Some mode of delivery is needed to get you there, whether its drop pods, dedicated transports, scouts, the method used is crucial to being successful. And I will say 6th rewards good generalship, those that fight their opponent and not their army list are the ones that win. This can be hard to get into that mindset, but remember you are fighting a person with beliefs and desires and flaws, and not a list of units and points.
And this is what I love about 6th, the game itself is rewarding to skilled play as much as it rewards mathhammer. It also has made the assault phase a far more memorable and critical phase than it has been. Because the degree of difficulty is higher, it is not an given that you will successfully assault the enemy unit, each individual assault is much more crucial that it does succeed. I would also argue that assaulting in 6th seems to be more decisive, don't know if I can quantify it but it just seems to be that way. Maybe challenges have a part in doing it or maybe it is because of have critical those successful assaults can be, but that is just how it seems to me.
I know that some out there are not a fan of this edition because of its slant toward shooting, but I remember a few editions ago and how unstoppable assault armies were. It was not fun being a Guard player and having one Blood Angel squad continually consolidate into squad after squad and wipe my army with nothing I could do but hope he would roll a low consolidate roll and I might get a chance to shoot before I was assaulted again. 6th ed is far more balanced than those days ever were, and I'm sure some remember them with nostalgia, I am not one of those. I still fight assault armies and sometimes I win and sometimes I lose, but the reasons for those wins and losses are for the most part not due to my list or my opponents, but the choices and tactics I make as well as my opponent that lead to those outcomes. And 6th is an edition that rewards generalship over math hammer every time.