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Yet More Thoughts on Heavy Bolters


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#1 Chastity

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Posted 26 March 2011 - 11:56 AM

Disclaimer: I have literally only just bought the core rulebook, but the consensus on the boards seems to be that bolters in general and heavy bolters in particular are too damned good.

Most of the fixes I've seen proposed basically boil down to nerfing their damage, but this strikes me as missing the central problem.

Near as I can figure it, the problem with bolters isn't so much the fact that they have high base damage (after all, an average punch from a Space Marine does pretty hefty damage) as that thanks to semi- and full-auto fire, the damage from repeat-firing weapons scales with Ballistic Skill when damage from other sorts of weapons doesn't. Even with armour and toughness reducing each hit independently, ten Heavy Bolter rounds doing 2D10 + 10 damage are going to be more effective against a single large target than a 6D10 + 10 Lascannon, particularly when Righteous Fury is taken into account.

The more I think about it, the more I think this problem comes from the fact that automatic fire allows for multiple hits against a single target in a single round, and in order for one shot to do a respectable amount of damage, a full-auto burst has to be able to do a completely *insane* amount of damage, because the amount of damage has to scale linearly with the number of shots fired. This has the counter-intuitive effect of making the best weapons for dealing heavy single-target damage the weapons designed for clearing out waves of infantry.

As a result, my proposed fix to the system (on the basis of no playtesting, but having used Heavy Weapons in Dark Heresy) is this:

When firing a weapon on semi- or full-auto, each hit after the first loses 1D10 damage, cumulatively, until no dice are rolled.

So one Heavy Bolter hit would deal 2D10 + 10 damage, the second hit against the same target would deal 1D10 + 10, the next just 10.

This seems initially counter-intuitive (logically three bullets should hurt three times as much as one bullet) but remember that damage is abstract, and it isn't immediately obvious why the amount of game-mechanical damage from the second bullet should be the same as the damage from the first (indeed when one is firing at a large, heavily armoured target it seems unreasonable that *all* of the bullets striking the target should hit vulnerable spots - which is what a hit for full damage would seem to imply) .

The advantage of this suggestion (and apologies if it has been suggested and/or shot down before) is that it seems to be a way to control the Heavy Bolter as a single-target weapon, without compromising its effectiveness in its setting-appropriate niche. It leaves the Heavy Bolter as your weapon of choice against Elites while making higher damage-per-hit weapons more effective against large, heavily armoured enemies.

Or maybe I'm talking complete nonsense. Thoughts?

 



#2 LittleHorus88

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 01:11 AM

 

its my impression that the holy bolters are meant to be powerful otherwise they would be hulking supergiants with popguns - either up the enemies (number of them or there armor) or keep them in close combat so they can only use bolt pistols or change the missions so they wont be able to rely on shooting everything on site

 

just a thought



#3 LittleHorus88

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 01:11 AM

 

its my impression that the holy bolters are meant to be powerful otherwise they would be hulking supergiants with popguns - either up the enemies (number of them or there armor) or keep them in close combat so they can only use bolt pistols or change the missions so they wont be able to rely on shooting everything on site

 

just a thought



#4 Lynata

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 07:28 AM

"Popguns" are a side-effect of this being a game where a single attack from the most basic weapon isn't meant to kill, even if it would easily be able to do so by background and/or realism. It gets odd when only one set of weapons is truly dangerous when other, more advanced arms that should actually be more lethal are only half as good and therefore become unattractive to the players when the characters should be overjoyed to be able to swap their "puny" bolter for a dreaded ancient plasma cannon. YMMV, of course.

Perhaps this is an intentional break from the fluff to make bolt weapons more "useful" in order to prevent everyone from swapping a Space Marine's signature weapon for something else in order to preserve the classic image.

Chastity: As per your wording, you would extend that rule to boltguns on SA/FA as well? I have a feeling it is a bit "too punishing", especially for heavy weapons who come with drawbacks of their own. Imho, they should be good, just not as good.


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#5 Charmander

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 07:19 PM

Lynata said:

I have a feeling it is a bit "too punishing", especially for heavy weapons who come with drawbacks of their own. Imho, they should be good, just not as good.

+1. 

IMHO it's too much as RAW, but doesn't need quite the giant nerf you propose.  And enforcing this rule on other autofire weapons would further reduce their effectiveness in combat, particularly with hordes (or damage from hordes and other enemies).



#6 ak-73

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 10:15 PM

Lynata said:

Perhaps this is an intentional break from the fluff to make bolt weapons more "useful" in order to prevent everyone from swapping a Space Marine's signature weapon for something else in order to preserve the classic image.

 

I doubt that after the eye-popping stats of the Barrage Plasma Gun and the Conflagration Meltagun. To me, that has been a first reaction to discussion here that plasma and melta are underpowered. What is FFG else to do? They hardly can't errata the whole balance between plasma/melta vs bolters. That would have to wait until 2E.

 

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#7 Siranui

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 11:57 PM

 I'd try it for several games first before re-writing things.

I'm a big fan of Plasma and Melta not being a no-brainer preference over bolt-guns. Otherwise Space Marines would all be using those instead. So Boltguns 'should' be good. But that aside, I really haven't experienced the problems that some people here seem to have. Boltguns seem just fine to me.



#8 Lynata

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 02:51 AM

ak-73 said:

I doubt that after the eye-popping stats of the Barrage Plasma Gun and the Conflagration Meltagun.
Huh? Are those in Rites of Battle? How good are they, exactly?

Maybe FFG should just slap an additional die on every weapon in the Deathwatch RPG, that should solve it.


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#9 Chastity

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 09:49 AM

It gets odd when only one set of weapons is truly dangerous when other, more advanced arms that should actually be more lethal are only half as good and therefore become unattractive to the players when the characters should be overjoyed to be able to swap their "puny" bolter for a dreaded ancient plasma cannon. YMMV, of course.

Yeah, that's basically the issue. Part of what I'm trying to work out here is a way to leave boltguns *good* (DW bolters do feel more powerful than TT bolters, but I'm actually okay with that because the boltgun *does* get too little love in Tabletop) without making them dominate over everything else while at the same time not (as Siranui implies above) making Plasma and Melta just flat-out better.

Chastity: As per your wording, you would extend that rule to boltguns on SA/FA as well? I have a feeling it is a bit "too punishing", especially for heavy weapons who come with drawbacks of their own. Imho, they should be good, just not as good.

 

That was the intent, although looking again I think you're right that it's too big a nerf (I was forgetting that Toughness is actually quite a significant factor here, and my proposed changes essentially make every hit after the first almost completely ineffective (I'm used to Dark Heresy, so I was forgetting quite how much your typical Deathwatch enemy will be able to absorb from a 10-point hit).

Basically what I'm trying to "fix" is the fact that as they stand Heavy Bolters seem to do more single-target damage than things like Lascannon and Plasma Cannon, until you get to really quite extreme levels of Armour/Toughness. Of course a Lascannon is probably better single-target at low ranks because you can't be certain of getting a lot of hits, but anecdotal evidence from these fora suggest that a fully advanced Devastator can get a half-dozen hits from a Heavy Bolter fairly trivially with up to eleven hits being a real possibility when bonuses are taken into account. Combine this with the fact that a lot of shooty talents seem to scale better with multiple-firing weapons than single-target weapons, and I thought things probably needed to be changed, but you're right that "lose a dice the moment you get more than one hit" is probably way too much.

I shall have a think.

(Also I fail at quoting - stupid nested boxes)



#10 Chastity

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 10:08 AM

Siranui said:

 I'd try it for several games first before re-writing things.

I'm a big fan of Plasma and Melta not being a no-brainer preference over bolt-guns. Otherwise Space Marines would all be using those instead. So Boltguns 'should' be good. But that aside, I really haven't experienced the problems that some people here seem to have. Boltguns seem just fine to me.

That's probably good advice, but I'm an inveterate fiddler and I tend to prefer to put house rules into play before I start rather than afterwards.

I think you're right that it's important that bolters not be flat out *worse* than other weapons, but what I'm trying to find is a way for them to be genuinely different strategic choices (I certainly don't subscribe to the school of thought that says that plasma and melta weapons should be godly - I don't actually think melta-gun damage is too bad as stands).

Basically what I'd like is a situation where Bolters, Plasma Guns, and Melta weapons all have their uses, whereas it seems a lot like bolters are the best (or close to the best) choice for pretty much every situation, and indisputably the best choice for tactical flexibility (particularly given their range of special ammo).

 



#11 Lynata

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 10:50 AM

Chastity said:

Basically what I'd like is a situation where Bolters, Plasma Guns, and Melta weapons all have their uses, whereas it seems a lot like bolters are the best (or close to the best) choice for pretty much every situation, and indisputably the best choice for tactical flexibility (particularly given their range of special ammo).

Perhaps do look at the TT for basic orientation, then - every weapon has its unique advantages and disadvantages, and if you like boltguns to "get more love" you need only to adjust the details, though this is of course easier said than done given that this is likely very acribic work with a lot of tweaking. I should also point out that I don't feel that boltguns do not get enough love in the TT, though - they are quite simply the most basic weapon and a viable allrounder without anything that makes them special. Other weapons stand out because they appear more unique, but in the end they all look to the boltgun in terms of balancing:

Flame weapons - Pros: AoE damage - Cons: less range, less penetration
Plasma weapons - Pros: more damage - Cons: risk of overheating, lower RoF
Melta weapons - Pros: more penetration - Cons: less range, lower RoF

In short: Aside from the aforementioned theory about making bolters stay the go-to weapon for everything I don't really have a clue why bolt weapons were blown out of proportion - they seemed to work fine in DH, including the heavy weapons. As I said, just add 1d10 to everything else as well? Or, as others did, scale back the bolt weapons (for example to DH Astartes' 2d10) - all depending on how challenging/quick/epic you want the encounters to be.

That said, from what it seems Rites of Battle has already introduced (way) more damaging plasma and melta weapons, sooo ...


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#12 Chastity

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 11:01 AM

Lynata said:

In short: Aside from the aforementioned theory about making bolters stay the go-to weapon for everything I don't really have a clue why bolt weapons were blown out of proportion - they seemed to work fine in DH, including the heavy weapons.

I think a big part of it was probably just because of issues with melee. Since a Marine's unarmed attacks do something like 1D10 + 10 damage, it would seem a bit crap for their guns to do less damage. I think they also wanted to push the idea that Bolters were the Special, Sacred weapons of the Imperium (they're actually *not* supposed to be a baseline weapon for ordinary folks, they're supposed to be quite serious tech).

I think the issue is that a lot of the niches the weapons have in Tabletop don't translate well to an RPG - rate of fire is a good example. Because damage in the RPGs is incremental, it's generally better to be able to do lots of little chunks of damage than one big chunk, which makes "more damage, less RoF" a bad tradeoff, particularly with lots of talents giving bonuses per-bullet.



#13 Lynata

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 11:13 AM

Chastity said:

I think a big part of it was probably just because of issues with melee. Since a Marine's unarmed attacks do something like 1D10 + 10 damage, it would seem a bit crap for their guns to do less damage.
Yes, I remember N0-1H3R3 voicing this theory as well. Without going into my usual rants about how Unnatural multiplicators mess up the game again I am still left wondering why they only pushed the bolt weapons that much, though. It's not like plasma is considered less valuable or serious, after all. But maybe the weapons in Rites of Battle were supposed to "fix this" and the weapons in the main rulebook are merely an oversight.


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#14 Charmander

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 06:43 PM

You can also try things like reducing the RoF of the weapon, mucking with the damage, or swapping the DoS Autofire rules as has been proposed by others,



#15 Siranui

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 10:30 PM

Chastity said:

Basically what I'd like is a situation where Bolters, Plasma Guns, and Melta weapons all have their uses, whereas it seems a lot like bolters are the best (or close to the best) choice for pretty much every situation, and indisputably the best choice for tactical flexibility (particularly given their range of special ammo).

 

Melta weapons certainly have their uses already. They are pretty specialised, granted; but when you need to deal with heavy armour they're great. They're also perhaps even more handy as a tool to cut through bulkheads and the like. I really rate them for utility use. If you want them to excel further in their specialist area, then I'd recommend just bumping the PEN. It means melta weapons are better at killing tanks and terminators, without making them great against soft targets.

Plasma is essentially a compramise between bolters and melta weapons. And a compramise multi-role weapon is always going to be second best at two things. That's the price of flexibility. I really recommend trying the RF on 9-10 rule. It's very simple and really makes plasma weapons good again. RF is where it's at in many ways. The reason HBs are reported as being grim isn't the damage they do, or even the rate of fire. It's down to all of those dice being rolled. Some of them will come up RF, and those are the shots that really hurt.



#16 ak-73

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 11:59 PM

Lynata said:

ak-73 said:

I doubt that after the eye-popping stats of the Barrage Plasma Gun and the Conflagration Meltagun.

Huh? Are those in Rites of Battle? How good are they, exactly?

 

Maybe FFG should just slap an additional die on every weapon in the Deathwatch RPG, that should solve it.

 

Multi-melta with 5d10+5 Pen 15 S/2/- (all new melta weapons have Pen 15, btw)

Plasmagun with 1d10+7 Pen 8 S/3/5

 

Granted the MM costs more requisition than you maybe can afford but I take it as a sign that they realized while testing vehicle rules: the original weapon stats are not nearly good enough(try default MM against Land Raider), we need better melta patterns (it still might be underpowered). And buff plasma against heavy infantry and light vehicles.

 

Alex


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#17 Malaclypsedk

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Posted 29 March 2011 - 01:28 AM

But then there is the question of Lascannons. They are still a part of the arsenal due to their high Penetration. So the Lascannon needs to get the penetration upped too.

Also the idea of full Auto on the Plasma is a bit off. Perhaps make them S/2/-. That is a bit better IMO. Not as fast as a Bolter, but faster than a Melta.

 

The Heavy Bolter is a versatile weapon certainly. It is not as good as a Plama Cannon or Missile Launcher for taking out groups of cannon fodder. It is not as good as a MultiMelta for armored targets (or Lascannon/missile launcher for the range too). But it is a good combi weapon. A Jack of all Trades. But a master of none.

Playing as a Devastator, then I wouldnt take a Heavy Bolter as my weapon against a Tyranid Broodlord. I mean with armor 8 and 12 toughness then I barely scratch the damn thing with my Pene 6 dam 2d10 +10. That job calls for a Multi Melta any day of the week.

It all depends on the info we as the players get at the briefing.... You bring the best weapon for the job, but if you dont know what you are going into, then a Heavy Bolter is the answer 9 times out of 10.

 

If you have a player that packs a Melta every game, then send in the fast small stuff in waves.... One shot and he is in Close Combat. Or if he packs a Heavy Bolter as a rank 6 Devastator, then send in the Grav Tanks, Broodlords or you name it. It all depends on the game you play. If it is the same type of game every time, that favours a Heavy Bolter, then that is what he will carry.



#18 Lynata

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Posted 29 March 2011 - 03:38 AM

Malaclypsedk said:

Also the idea of full Auto on the Plasma is a bit off.
Having just read Into the Storm, I have a feeling that someone at FFG is seriously messing with the weapons. Autofire plasmaguns with a higher RoF than bolters, boltguns that do twice the damage of meltas, sniper bolt weapons (who have an increased range despite firing the same rocket-propelled ammunition) issued to PDF(!) troopers, ...

Maybe it's just me, but ... duh.


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#19 Siranui

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Posted 29 March 2011 - 04:37 AM

 I haven't read the book, but off the top of my head, something that fired a sollid stream of plasma would surely be mechanically represented as having a high rate of fire. There's also a big difference between absolute range and accurate range. Just as a bolt pistol and bolt gun have different ranges despite having the same ammunition and just as a 7.62mm sniper rifle has a vastly superior range to a 7.62mm assault rifle, it's really not a problem that an accurised bolt gun would out-range one designed for assault.



#20 Charmander

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Posted 29 March 2011 - 05:16 PM

Malaclypsedk said:

The Heavy Bolter is a versatile weapon certainly. It is not as good as a Plama Cannon or Missile Launcher for taking out groups of cannon fodder. It is not as good as a MultiMelta for armored targets (or Lascannon/missile launcher for the range too). But it is a good combi weapon. A Jack of all Trades. But a master of none.

Playing as a Devastator, then I wouldnt take a Heavy Bolter as my weapon against a Tyranid Broodlord. I mean with armor 8 and 12 toughness then I barely scratch the damn thing with my Pene 6 dam 2d10 +10. That job calls for a Multi Melta any day of the week.

 

The HB should be a jack of all trades and a master of none.  Problem is it's a master of all.  By the RAW I can do on average, with an average marine, 35 damage in one shot with an HB agasint the Broodlord (assuming BS 50, close range, full atuo, big target and 5 hits).  Add kraken rounds and I do 45 damage, add mighty shot and I do 55.  The 5d10 +5 pen 15 MM will do, on average, 20 damage in the same turn, 22 with mighty shot, and costs a load of req.  Pretty good versus a tank with armor, but not so hot versus 'soft targets.' 

My HB has a 27% RF chance with every bolt, or 80% chance of triggering it at least once if hitting 5 times.  That 5d10 MM has a 41% chance of hitting RF.

The other weapons definitely need a bump, and maybe RoB did that, but the HB is still the king of the hill without some HRs (Unless there are more stats from RoB I don't know about, but I'm not going to ask for a full weapons chart to be printed here...someday Amazon will get the book back in stock :-P )

 






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