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octothorpe2

Melee vs Ranged: Is there Balance?

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Hi guys,

I don't know if this has been brought up before - I searched the forums and couldn't find anything, so I thought I'd ask. I apologize if this has already been discussed and I just fail at searching.

I ran the first bit of Final Sanction last night, and something that became apparent to my players is that, while SMs are awesome and deal tons of damage, it seems that ranged attackers do more damage. The problem in particular was our Devastator Marine, who took cover and Full-Auto'ed everything's face off. Albeit with some lucky rolls, she popped the head off of a Genestealer in one hit. Our Assault Marine also punched a hole straight through a Genestealer, but just barely, nothing like the insane damage caused by our ranged counterparts.

When I read the system, I thought the balance lied in adding your SB to melee damage, but it seems that the multiple hits scored from ranged weapons just blows that out of the water. My group overall questioned this - they already consider being in melee a disadvantage, but on top of that, you can only hit once with your weapon, and doing so isn't going to cause as much damage as someone who is safely up to 100m away? I reason that without that person in melee, the ranged would have enemies right up in their faces, but even then the penalty to hit isn't insurmountable.

Basically, what I'm trying to figure out is: are we missing the point? Are we just whining? Have I misinterpreted the rules and gimped melee by accident? My players seem alright with Horde combat, as melee has an extra hit mechanic, but they're calling for a change to melee in regular combat. The popular suggestion at the moment is that All Out Attack and Charge grant an extra hit for every two degrees of success, with additional hits not gaining the SB to damage,as well as removing the "no Dodge or Parry" restriction on All Out Attack. From what I've seen so far, I do not oppose this suggestion; however, I do want other people's opinion on this, as this is my first time running anything in the 40k setting, and I don't know if making this change now will cause real balance issues in the future.

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This issue is very similar to DH and RT games.

Melee doesn't stand a chance of outdistancing ranged combat damage/hits until you get access to additional talents/skills that give you extra attacks. Melee does gain a huge benefit over ranged. Your swords and knives don't jam in melee. I don't think I've been able to fully fire a three round fuel cannister yet from my flamer without it jamming on the first or second shot.

It really hasn't been a big problem for us. Our group has people focused on ranged attacks and those focused on melee.

Also, some weapons have benefits over others. Melee tearing quality weapons such as the chain sword gain benefits that most ranged weapons don't have access too.

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At pretty much the highest levels (rank 8) for a DH game you can have 3 attacks with your main hand and 1 attack with your offhand.  You can also have 2 parrys/turn and a counter attack skill that if you parry then you get to attack back.  So if you maxed out you could have attacked 6 times in 1 turns time.  That balances it out quite a bit, if those skills are included.  I don't know what they are doing for Deathwatch.

I felt the same way playing the demo though, that the devastator was the highest damage overall by far.  Single target the powerfist should be on top, if played by the rules they had.  I don't believe you are supposed to be able to use the heavy bolter in melee, correct?  That's a huge balance to the weapons there.

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I had the same experience in the demo I ran: the premade Devastator Marine far surpassed the others in sheer damage output.

That being said, unless they change the Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader rules greatly, you cannot use any ranged weapons in melee that aren't pistols in combat at all and to withdraw from melee is a full action. Compared to other systems like D&D and you'll see that the rules for ranged characters in melee are harsher in 40k RPs. However, in my Rogue Trader full auto range weapons are still king but even my range characters have use for their chainswords and power weapons.

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Look at it this way:

If the Devastator firing his heavy bolter from the relative safety of being 100 meters away from where steel meets flesh would not outdamage everyone what is the whole point of the devastator and the heavy bolter?

Warfare is not a competition of "who gets most kills". Its a team-effort with the aim of defeating the enemy. Devastator is killy from 100 meters away, but if the other guys are not keeping the enemy away from him he is toast. Heavy bolter is useless if the genestealer is close enough to be biting your head off. You need devastators to bring the hurt. You need assault marines to kill stuff that come into your face. You need bolter-carrying tacticals to guard flanks, swing their guns quickly around in tight places and generally do everything else.

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There is no real balance between melee and ranged weapons. In certain situations, melee weapons prevail (try to use that heavy bolter of yours in close-quarters combat, and watch yourself die), but in many others, they don't. And I don't see why they should, either. Humans haven't (mostly) ditched swords and spears because the arms manufacturers have all their money invested in firearms production, but because guns are more effective at killing people.

First off, melee fights are tiring (so are firefights, I understand, stressful business). And melee weapons are slightly harder to master while firearms are much closer to point and shoot. Plus guns have the advantage of multiple attacks and the ability deliver equal energy on a smaller area, which increases penetration and defeats armour more easily, which increases the likelihood of a grievous injury. And finally, guns can kill people five hundred metres away. Swords cannot.

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As mentioned above without the talents melee is gimped in the lite rules.  However I suspect come DW proper the balance will be evened up.

One thing I did was beef it up a bit vs the rebel hordes and used the magnitude every hit rather then 2.  This was to represent the fact that the huge fisted marine was popping peoples heads off like champagne and the effect it had on the moral of the hordes.

For the follow up this won't be the case ofc as they are aliens.

Melee vs the Genestealer - he got battered, whereas the ranged massacred them easily regulalrly getting 4 hits. If the genie missed his dodge of only made 1 or 2 successes the kraken rounds and damage left them eliminated. 

It would be nice to get a preview of melee talents though - because as a player you can feel redundant if your opportunity to "get at em" in melee is far more dangerous then for ranged.

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 Melee vs the Genestealer - he got battered, whereas the ranged massacred them easily regulalrly getting 4 hits. If the genie missed his dodge of only made 1 or 2 successes the kraken rounds and damage left them eliminated.

We're talking about 'slice terminator armour open'-genestealers here, aren't we? Also, don't forget that when they are in melee (and a GM that lets genestealers charge across a few hundred meters isn't doing them justice), the Assault Marine, the Storm Warden and the apothecary are the only ones who have anything better than their combat knives to kill them.

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This "problem" stems from the fact that the game balance between ranged and close combat is relatively realistic. In real life the benefits of shooting someone far exceed trying to stab them. In the TT 40k wargame the rules are very heavily skewed in favor of Close Combat just to justify all the close combat weapons in the game. As a gaming group you have to collectivley decide if you want to stick with "realistic" or go for something "balanced"; the other alternitive to just count on your Gamemaster to create scenarios where their are disadvantages to shooting to balance out the need for close combat. It could be anything from a situation where you don't want to kill or blow to pieces the enemy or the "aliens" scenario of no being able to use amored piercing ammo cause it could blow everything up. Their is also the close quarters situation where everything is confined and the enemy closes into close combat quickly enough to reduce the advantage of ranged shooting where the enemy can't always strike back.

The other option as a GM is to just find a way to give your close combat players weapons that correct any percieved inbalance; that avoids rewriting rules or justifying a bonus that only applies to the players and not to the enemy who should have the same opportunity.

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I get the feeling that a lot of people skimmed over the rules section in Final Sanction, assuming it was the same as DH and RT, with the exception of Hordes combat mechanics.

If fully read you'll notice that in melee you get bonus attacks based on the number of degrees of success on your attack roll, which combined with the Assault Marines power fist (adding a multiplier to your Unnatural Strenght, making it 3x, and also scoring extra magnitude damage similar to the Devastators class ability) makes the Dark Angel sample character one of, if not the most brutal character in the set.

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Could I just mention the glaringly obvious advantage of Melee over Ranged?   

Ammo.

Is it just me or has no one noticed that one yet? When the Heavy Bolter has run out of ammo, the close combat peeps just keep on killing...

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Thanks everyone for the input. I had a feeling that the main reason for this "imbalance" is reflecting real life, at least somewhat.

I plan on rolling most of what you guys said into a conversation with my group the next time we meet. I will start with Polaria's point, because I feel this also captures the theme of DW to an extent. If they still feel that an adjustment is needed, I will let them know that any changes made to melee are system-wide, not just for the PCs. Opinions may change when the actual DW book is out, of course, but I'm happy to hear the various points of view on this subject. Thanks again!

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Howdy!

Lets see do we want to use the full auto coke can sized high explosive missile launcher(Heavy Bolter) or a sharp pointy stick(combat knife). Yes the ranged attacks are better than melee. That may be why the modern militaries use guns and grenades instead of sharp pointy sticks as their primary weapons. And yes as a fan and student of close combat I realize it has its place, but hand grenades are really that good. Thanks from a prior enlisted major of infantry Marines.

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Howdy!

When we first started playing dark heresy, I would get asked all the time by new players..."which class is the best in combat?".  To which I would reply..."any class that can throw fire bombs and frag grenades". They would respond " Really?" and I would reply..." Ok any one that can use full auto weapons,ie rifles or pistols" , and I would hear back...."ohh which ones are those?" And my answer was " All of them".

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They are fairly evenly balanced, when in situations playing to each of their strengths. If you have range on someone with a melee weapon, a gun is going to mow them down (unless they have good armour or Toughness), but if a melee character gets the jump on you, or you are fighting at close quarters (like in a building), then having a heavy bolter won't help you, because the guy with the mono-axe is going to chop you up.

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Part of the prevailance of melee in the 41st millenium is a lack of tech. Your average hive scum would be lucky to see solid projectile weaponry let alone anything fancy or rare. A lot of the xenons threats to the imperium are melee based (tyranids) or disdain shooting in favour of getting into a brawl (orks).

Yes the Imperial Guard are armed with 'flashlights' in comparison to the pulse weaponry of the Tau, or the gauss weaponry of the Necrontyr, even the shuriken/splinter weaponry of the Eldar and their dark cousins.

Also yes, a human with a common tech level weapon will tend to get mulched by xenos in melee, or even at range, but you know what? That's the point.

Humans just plain suck. The only reason the imperium exists is because we used to have better technology, and we breed like rabbits. The only race seemingly more numerous would be the orks, but they are far from unified. So yeah, combat does seem skewed towards ranged weaponry being preferable for the acolytes, but then we are only human.

Now, wait untill we have Sororitas Martyrs, Guard Ogryns and possibly Greyknights in addition to the Deathwatch and THEN we'll see a lot more melee combat happening!

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And why pray tell would a range weapon user only have that many rounds with them, or not have backup weapons, or borrow weapons from team mates, or scavenge from slain enemies.

I still feel that if you take a starting range character and pit them against a starting melee character, the ranged is likely to win. For ranged combat you pretty much just need a good BS and some throne gelt to keep you supplied. For melee combat, you need a good WS, S, T, Ag and for some of the better weapons, a helluva lot of throne gelt.

Melee can be very brutal, but it is very talent and attribue intensive to master. Shooting someone can be very easy if you just throw more dakka at the situation, and i find talents only really become useful for gunslingers or snipers, with line troops being very talent light.

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Kasatka said:

And why pray tell would a range weapon user only have that many rounds with them, or not have backup weapons, or borrow weapons from team mates, or scavenge from slain enemies.

Well, I can't answer the "scavenge from slain enemies" bit, but since a full clip of ammo weighs the same as 10% of the weight of the weapon it's for, some of the bigger, better weapons, if only your character is carrying ammo for his gun, only allow you to carry one or two magazine's worth. On a short mission, that's fine, but on a longer one with limited/no chance of resupply, you'll end up having to watch how much fire you lay down if you want to not run out of ammo.

And if you are having the problem of running out of ammo, what's to say your team mates might not be running low too?

You also don't need good Strength, Toughness and Agility to be good with a melee weapon, but it helps. Caught close up, any guy with a half decent WS score could cut your guy a new one with a mono-weapon (which is very cheap).

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Don't give them the option of Ranged Combat. A Deathwatch kill team isn't going to get called out to a stand up fight over an open field. They will board Space Hulks with twisting tight corridors that don't give the SM time to light um up, or undergound warrens riddled with murder holes that Xenos can down on you from.

Running the game - you where the encounters happen. Take your Devastator and put him in front in a twisting set of corridors with side passages and your Medic will have something to do in no time.

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MILLANDSON and Darq are right its not always going to be feesable to resupply so yes there is a balance but its up to the GM to keep it that way put your team in the rabbit holes ill take combat... leave them in a well fortified and well supplied munitions temple and ill say hand me my heavy bolter... its the one with all the kill marks on it

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Heavy bolter are noisy and tend to attrack attention of the enemy's fire support.

A few dozen heavy stubber shooting your devastator will end up having him to duck for cover.  We haven't talked about snipers either, wall crawling genestealers that jump your position...

I can't wait to see the face of my devastator friend... Incoming RPG!!!! oh oh a HORDE RPG!!!...

Hence where mister jump pack goes "Yarrrr die Stubber gunner!" Jumps "Yarrr die RPG gunner!" jumps again "Yarr die genestealer wall crawling back stabber xeno!"

 

etc. etc.

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