Friday, 4 January 2013

AP2 Fixation


We all know sixth edition brought weird and wonderful changes to 40k, notably flyers and hull points for tanks, as well as weird psychic powers that were almost… generic. By far the most uncomfortable changes have occurred in assault, where certain armies have simply become unviable. Certain units severely weakened. Those same units that could once deal with multiple threats per turn are actually hindered by entering multiple combats. I know armies (armies, geddit?) that have suffered as a result of changes, especially in the way close combat weapons work. It has been horrific. Sometimes, models have had their entire arms amputated to compensate for the changes! 

I am of course, referring to Power weapons being AP3. Now, I am promising not to complain about AP3 weaponry - quite the opposite, in fact. The main observation that I have is thus: 

As Power Weapons have been reduced to AP3, people have become eccentric. Rather than gain a large strength (Power fists or Power Mauls) or points bonus (usually -15 to remove the weapon), they limit their models with Unwieldly +1 S AP2 Axes 

This belief is erroneous. There are so many hindrances to the fabled Power Axe, people simply glaze over them. To put it succinctly and to quote a friend, 

“People think that a single sarge with an axe will INSTA PWN ALL DUH TERMINATORZ”


Last edition, a Tactical marine sergeant with a power sword and a bolt pistol was a terrible option – although it dealt with all armour equally, most often a power sword was eschewed for a powerfist. Which, although equal at dealing with armour, was only slightly more expensive and the speed modifier was acceptable – maybe because of wound allocation. Nowadays, everyone’s so worried about the poorness of the ubiquitous power sword that they’ve done a strange thing. Rather than stick with the reliable if slow power of a power fist, they’ve shifted to the arguably “made in china” assault weapon. While the Axe is matched AP and speed with the Power fist, it trades strength for price.

I question this. While “Lean and mean” has always been the normal play style, with points cost always being an issue – everyone always squeezes the potential of their points to fit in that extra sanguinary priest or that seventeenth vendetta. I don’t question this logic because it’s cheaper to get a power axe than a power fist, but that if one is so set on purchasing something else that they simply have to economise on that power fist, why bother with the special combat weapon at all? Surely, it is far cheaper to simply leave a sergeant with a chainsword or – the horror – a boltgun rather than force him to use a subpar close combat weapon?


Axes are +1 S at AP2 I1 with the normal 2CCW bonus. Because of their AP2, they can replace power fists when points are an issue, putting out an extra attack in exchange for strength.

Power swords are normal S at AP3 I(standard) with the normal 2CCW bonus. Swords are left unchanged in most respects, but are now next to useless against terminators.

Power Mauls are +2 S at AP4 I(standard) with the normal 2CCW bonus. Mauls provide a tactically significant strength bonus without sacrificing speed, but lack infantry armour penetration. They are better against AP2 than power swords, and excellent against low-toughness mutliple wound models.

Powerfists are *2 S at AP2 I(standard) without the normal 2CCW bonus. Fists are arguably the best weapon on a S4 or 5 model. The downside is reduced weight of attacks and low speed. They are the most expensive, but make up for this in being able to really bring the hurt on paladins and terminators. 

Another, "interesting" addition of 6th edition is the Power Lance. 

This strange weapon is +1 S at AP3 on the charge. I don't consider these useful. If you're going to waste your time with on-the-charge bonuses, why not just take a power maul? the Strength bonus is consistent and better - you aren't gonna be winning fights on the charge if you use these stupid weapons. 


I’m mostly a Space Marine Player myself. I can’t comment on most armies. I have thought about the bonuses that the different power weapons give to Marines of a BA and SM persuasion, as well as GK to a lesser extent (Though, GK have only truly have special power weapons and my comments differ greatly for them). I can make comments on them most easily – as I have been.

For units that will undoubtedly end up in combat, all power weapons are an option. Power axes and fists are worst on characters (like an assault marine sergeant or veteran) as they often die before they strike. Fists (and by extension axes) are an excellent (“excellent”) option on non-named character (like death company) as they can’t be singled out by assaults and, if placed correctly can be protected by ablative wounds. Characters who are unable to get an invulnerable save of some sort should look at Power Mauls or swords – the extra attack can make the difference, and a power maul has so many tactical applications that it is simply not possible to not consider it. On squads like Sanguinary Guard, where the upgrade to a power fist is relatively cheap (10 points?), using them over an axe is always advisable.

In short, Axes have applications. But so do Power swords and so do Power Mauls. But, it seems to me that a squad sergeant really doesn’t stand a chance in combat, now that he can be singled out. The value of any close combat weapon on such a character has dropped dramatically. The game is shooting now anyway. Spend those 15 points on a missile launcher somewhere.

An afterthought:

In writing this, I always assumed a Strength of 4. This was wrong of me, as some armies aren’t like SM (hard to believe, I know.) So, I’ve taken them into account

Power fists start to have their bonus reduced after S5. As S10 is the cap, models with Strengths higher than 5 are actually wasting some of the value of their fist. On the other hand, fists bonuses get smaller and smaller as the Strength value of the model decreases. This, in effect, limits the effective range of a power fist to approximately S3-6 (and that’s pushing it.) Anything lower, a maul is more valuable and anything higher, mauls and axes are more value for their cost bonuses (anything with S6 or higher should be pretty expensive…)