The Lost RulesMan Articles: 40k without... Meltaguns?
When Bryssling inherited the Rules Manufactorum archive, I noticed that there were five posts in draft state. These articles were never completed, and date from different points in the site's history. These are those articles. All of them were originally written by Atrotos.
Recently a friend and I were talking about the validity of the idea that 5th edition, or the "Mech" Edition as it could be called, revolves around the Meltagun. Indeed, we agreed, the plethora of codices can be divided into the melta "have's" and "have not's" with the "have not's" typically being assigned a lower power level that the "have's." No surprise there. With most armies being able to field to 5 - 10 vehicles in a single list and certain lists containing even more it's easy to see how, say, Daemons don't typically perform as well as IG. It follows that the Meltagun would be the go-to weapon of choice for everyone who can take it eclipsing any other special weapon choice an easy 9 times out of 10.
This got me thinking: what if the meltagun didn't exist? Would the game change for the better or for the worse?
Well one obvious result is that GW would sell out of Land Raider kits immediately. AV 14 would be spammed mercilessly on tables everywhere and those without access to AV 14 would be shafted since that armor value would replace Melta spam as the status quo. Though feeble against heavy armor Lascannons would likely become the Melta further widening the gap between Imperial and Xenos armies.
The up side would be that players could finally invest in heavy armor without fear that cheap meltacide units will vaporize it on turn 2. We might see armor storming around the table as it should with infantry in close support behind it rather than the meatshield "bubblewrap" that most tacticians favor. It would be a game more faithful to the background in which a Land Raider or a Leman Russ might really ruin a foot soldier's day rather than inspire self-satisfied grins.
There might also...
Yes, it ends there. There might also. However, I suspect that this was written pre-Dark Eldar. My own thoughts are as follows:
Although there might be a slight increase in AV14, I suspect Lance weaponry (and Blaster spam) would keep the Land Raider and Monolith in check. It might even improve the fortunes of the overpriced normal Eldar, with a specific army build, but it will mainly be the Dark Kin, with their access to cheap and plentiful Lance.
If the lascannon/missile launcher rise does happen, a rise in 'gunline' armies is also on the cards here. Players may even justify a Godhammer Land Raider as a LoS block for Devastators or similar, you never know.
That said, there is a second anomaly, Grey Knights. In a non-Henchman force, the go-to AT has to be either combat or the Psycannon-psybolt approach. A lot of GK forces wouldn't be affected by absence of melta, and because of their natural short range, gunline isn't as safe as you'd like. Plus, other players would be more inclined to take the riskier plasma weapon, and the autocannon is still knocking around. And then we have Necrons, and Entropic Strike. They're doing OK, are they not? It helps that they have the Eldritch Lance, the happy medium between melta and missile.
After some thought, my conclusion is that there wouldn't be any large-scale upheaval. With more non-melta competitive Xenos on the tables, and the trend-bucking Grey Knights, the melta-owners are gradually losing their grip and settling in with the rest of them. Now, if Orks, Tyranids et al get their own alternative, we may be approaching an even field.