Alt40k Package 1: Sniper

Hello all, my name’s Max and welcome to my new series over here on Rules Manufactorum, Alt40k Packages! 

For those of you who don’t know me, I normally ply my trade over on Defending Humanity, but the idea of working on some alt 40k projects here at RM proved too good a chance to pass up.

I’ll be looking at different rules from 40k each week and see what we can do to try and either improve, make closer to the fluff or just change for the heck of it. The key to this is to make small, modular changes to our game that are easy to incorporate but have wide reaching effects. The idea is that if you like a given rules package you can easily swap it in without worrying too much about affecting multiple rules at once.

Of course, simply arm chair generaling isn’t enough- we need some actual results to see if the changes are beneficial or not! So, every so often I’ll include a battle report showing one or more of my proposed changes in action and we’ll see whether I went too far or not far enough.

Well, that’s enough introduction, let’s get to it!
Sniper. This word brings a very specific image to mind. Elite, deadly marksmen picking off choice targets at extreme range. The originators of the old motto of one shot, one kill, snipers are cold, practical men that take out their targets with meticulous planning, sowing fear and confusion among the ranks of the enemy.
Unfortunately that image has no place on our tabletop, where most “snipers” are just as likely to waste ammo simply winging Guardsmen as they are choosing actually lethal spots. And that’s if they even hit the target in the first place!
Simply put, snipers in the dark future of the 41st millennium aren’t terribly good at their jobs. Terrible accuracy, insignificant wounding power and the general uselessness of pinning oftentimes means that a sniper unit will pick off maybe 3-4 wounds per game before they are put out of their misery, and odds are that the affected unit won’t even care. The one area that they do excel in is wounding Monstrous Creatures, but even then the mighty big game hunters can’t seem to manage to put down the beasties too terribly well.

Another problem with snipers is that they don't really fill a unique role in the battlefield of the 41st millennium. Pinning can be done with barrage weapons, anti infantry can be done by line squads, and anti heavy infantry/monstrous creatures is done infinitely better by heavy weapons such as missile launchers. Sounds bad right? And well, it is. But that’s what we’re here for! So what are the key areas that we want to improve to help bring more talent back to these snipers?
  • Accuracy. It doesn’t matter if you’re a terrible shot, if you have a scope and have been trained on a sniper rifle you should be a better shot than your average line trooper.
  • Sniping. There’s no point in being a sniper if you can’t “snipe” chosen targets from inside a squad.
  • Anti-vehicle. Yes, snipers should still not be all stars against mech, but the cinematic appeal of shooting the driver through the windshield still stands. Plus, tabletop wise if snipers can’t help demech the enemy they lose a lot of value.

So how can we rewrite the Sniper rules to incorporate these different concepts? My suggestions are given below. Like all rules that I suggest, you can take individual parts of the rule to use in your game or use the whole thing, depending on your preferences.
  • Sniper weapons all have the rending and pinning Universal Special Rules.
  • Sniper rifles are usually equipped with high powered scopes or are used by soldiers with eagle eyes. When using a Sniper weapon the attacking model always hits on a 2+ regardless of its ballistic skill. However, when rolling to wound resolve the roll using the attacking model’s ballistic skill. So a model with BS 3 will wound on a 4+ and a model with BS 4 will wound on a 3+.
  • Against vehicles, sniper weapons have a strength equal to the firing model’s BS, which, combined with the rending rule, represents their chances of successfully hitting exposed crew, vision ports, fuel or ammo storage, etc.
  • Snipers are tasked with eliminating command and high value targets from opposing forces. Every third wound caused by Sniper weapons is allocated by the shooting model’s player rather than the defending player.
Let’s see how this rule affects some of our common snipers.
BS 3
Before: 16.7% chance of a normal wound, 8.3% chance of a rend
Now: 27.8% chance of a normal wound, 13.9% chance of a rend
BS 4
Before: 25% chance of a normal wound, 11.1% chance of a rend
Now: 41.7% chance of a normal wound, 13.9% chance of a rend
BS 5
Before: 27.8% chance of a normal wound, 13.9% chance of a rend
Now: 55.6% chance of a normal wound, 13.9% chance of a rend
Marked improvement from total wounds but little improvement in the number of rends. Believe it or not, I didn't simply increase the hit rate so that they could just do more wounds. With 1/3  wounds allocated by the attacking player dealing more wounds is essential for a Sniper unit to be able to pick out any troublesome models in the unit.

For example, with 10 Space Marine Scouts we're now able to put on average one wound wherever we want it, but with a smaller band of 5 we'd only get that chance probably every other turn. I think this is enough to get the Scouts noticed but probably not enough to make them overpowered, while also making sure that small bands of Snipers can have a fair chance at sniping models. And, in this age of Mech, let’s take a look at the chance of glancing and penetrating vehicles:

BS 3
1.3% chance of a glance and 2.6% chance of a pen on AV 10
2.0% chance of a glance and 4.0% chance of a pen on AV 10
BS 4
1.8% chance of a glance and 3.6% chance of a pen on AV 10
5.4% chance of a pen on AV 10
BS 5:
2.3% chance of a glance and 4.6% chance of a pen on AV 10
5.4% chance of a pen on AV 10 or 11

So, still not amazing at taking out mech but they at least have a fighting chance now.
Overall I hope that I've helped find a niche for Snipers in the game of 40k. Not as powerful as a Vindicaire and not as dedicated anti-infantry as your standard machine gunner squad but still able to make their own unique contribution to the battlefield.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope that you’ll join me next time as we take another ability to task. Let me know what you think of this mechanic, and if you can think of a better way to improve it, let me know!



Atrotos said…
A very elegant system Max and beautiful in its simplicity. With it Scouts become a useful tool and Ratlings are downright dangerous whilst "Normal" Snipers in IG squads are limited by their fewer shots. 

I'm not sure if you meant every third wound inflicted by the same squad can be allocated or rather every third wound allocated by any sniper squad in the same phase. If it's the latter then minimal squads of IG vets with just 3 sniper rifles might be worth taking but armies with multiple small squads of Sniper Scouts and Ratlings (not to mention the new Deathmarks) would gain a big advantage. 

I would have also liked to see cumulative leadership modifiers for sniper weapons - something like a "Crossfire" rule which would make units targeted by two or more squads take pinning checks at - 1 to their leadership or something to that effect. 
Max Herzl-Betz said…
Thanks! I intended it to be just every third wound caused by the one squad.

While I do like the idea of it spreading to include every sniper wound throughout the round as that would readily incorporate the idea of a bunch of lone snipers each trying to kill their target, I think the amount of bookkeeping required would be a bit too much to handle.

The pinning checks at -1 I kinda lumped by being able to take out sgts, but I could see an expansion to the rule that would incorporate something like that. It might also make a good add on- suppressive fire.
Master_Bryss said…
So with the Vindicare, would having a BS above 5 allow you to re-roll To Wound?

I like this system, although I'd have liked to see more pinning modifications. Right now it's a bit underwhelming for me.
Max Herzl-Betz said…
Exactly on the Vindicaire.

I thought about putting in an additional -1 to Ld for pinning tests but I was worried that it might be too much over the top. The way I figure is that with the sniping you can pick off the sgt in the squad, so the test is already at -1 thanks to him being out of the way. Still, increasing the pinning ability might be justified. Would you say just a flat -1 or a cumulative penalty?

I might actually just wrap that into a rework of the various morale tests, as pinning in general is rather underwhelming right now.
Tallenwehner said…
 This system is actually pretty cool. It is a fresh view on some worn out (and often forgotten) rules. he only thing I noticed is that with a sniper weapon, the abilities of the weapon itself make no difference. Wit the rules laid out as they are, there would be little difference between a veteran guardsman with a souped-up lasgun with a sight vs. a Wraithlord with a variant Bright Lance and an arcane sighting system. I think changing it so the weapon keeps it's normal strength (albeit the strength is high to represent the power of the weapon and wielder.) and using BS to determine how many wounds the shooter assigns versus the defender. You would roll to hit during wound allocation, and if you hit you get to assign the wound, and if you miss your opponent gets to assig the wound. In essence, a sniper weapon would hit on a 2+, wound based on it's strength, assign wounds based on the shooter's BS, and Pierce armor based on weapon's AP and rending. This would open up the concept to add sniper weapons onto vehicles and monstrous creatures.