Deep Striking is not dangerous, it's random

I've been tossing this post around in my head for a little while now and I thought I might run it by you guys to see what you thought.

The problem with deep striking is it's not dangerous, it's random. It's a game mechanic that doesn't match the concept or what players want to do in the game.

Let me back up, I read a regular column by Mark Rosewater. I know some of you other guys read it too because I've seen you post about it. He does card design for Magic the Gathering. He regularly talks about game design in his column and he's almost always got something interesting to say or an angle on something you would have never thought about.

A while back, he had a column (and I wish I could find it now) where he talked about what Magic players want to do with their decks and how game mechanics should work in line with that. For example, Magic players want to play their cards, they work very hard to craft their decks and include cards they want to use... so mechanics like throw away your whole hand of cards is not something that usually goes over well. While it might be "cool" or "interesting," it goes against what the players want to do in the game and generally doesn't go over well with players. They'll avoid using it since it doesn't fit with how they want to play in the first place. Remember, they built their decks to be able to use them, not throw them away.

Now translate that to 40k and Deep Striking.
Players want to use their armies. Players want to fight with all their little men. If those little men are going to die, let it be at their General's hands in bloody combat and not some silly, completely random dice roll.

Deep striking is extremely dangerous, the book even tells us so. But to use randomness to try and show how "dangerous" it is, makes for a poor game mechanic. I'm not big on mathhammer, but let's look at how "dangerous" Deep Striking is.

You have to roll to see when they come in.
Not dangerous, random.

You have to roll to see if they scatter. (66 percent says they will)
Again, not dangerous, but random.

You roll to see what direction they scatter.

If they do scatter, which is likely, it's 2D6 inches.
Once again, not dangerous... random.

If you randomly come in and randomly scatter into a random bad thing already on the battlefield, they you roll to see what random mishap result you get.
When does it get dangerous?

Then and only then do you possibly come across something "extremely dangerous" happening and that's only a 33 percent chance of it happening at that point (Terrible accident on the Mishap chart).

So something that is supposed to extremely dangerous for our troops turns out to to be so random, it's not even close to how it should work within the context of the game or how players want to play in the first place. Remember, just like Magic players, we've taken the time to craft out lists, build and paint our armies and we came to fight. But there's no bloody combat here, no fighting, no nothing... just random.

Now take Infiltrating. A much better fit as a mechanic in the game.
You get to place your troops where you want (within certain limits) after all other units have been placed at the beginning of the game.
It's what Infiltrators do, they sneak up on the enemy. You can choose where exactly your guys have infiltrated in towards the enemy as well. It's a game mechanic that works within the context of the game AND with what players want to do with their armies... play with them on the battlefield.

So what's the answer to fixing Deep Striking?
That I don't know. I'm perfectly fine with "extremely dangerous," but use a mechanic that reflects that, that fits within the context of the game and is in line with what players came to do in the first place. To use their armies and fight with them.

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!


  1. I think that you're confusing "immediately deadly" with "risky".

    The randomness plays into the risk, and the risks come with potentially high rewards. You want your DS units to land in position X in order to secure an objective, be in double pen range of a particular tank, etc.

    They avoid the normal risk of walking across the field, getting shot at, having the enemy react to them, etc. and replace it with the risk of randomness - may not come in at the best time, may drift out of perfect range, etc. The risk of DS is "dangerous" not so much because they will explode on entry, but rather that the danger is that you will miss out on the hoped-for reward, and be left high and dry to be destroyed in the opponent's turn.

    Infiltrate is good, less seeming risk, but often less powerful. With his own deployment, the enemy can absolutely deny large areas for infiltration. Outflanking can be blocked off in large areas or slowed down with disposable targets, or largely defanged by avoiding the table edges. Deep Strike is harder to completely avoid - you can make it more risky for your opponent, but if he's willing to accept those risks the reward can be similarly impressive if successful. The important thing is being able to weigh the risk vs. reward.

  2. Left a bit confused on your deepstriking dangerous or it not dangerous??? SonofTaurus hit dead on with the fact that the randomness is risk and risk is potential. Their is no need to fix deepstriking one bit in my mind as it is implement in an appropriate manner. Most armies these days have wargear or unit that decrease the risk in deepstriking by allowing for re-rolls, no scatter at all or just d6 scatter. Their are ways around it and in the end it comes down to careful planning.

  3. Deepstriking in NOT dangerous. It is an idea in the game that is implemented through randomness. The mechanic by which you deepstrike is random, not dangerous.
    I don't believe randomness equals dangerous. I think GW wants us to see randomness as dangerous or "risky" in this case, but I think ultimately it's a poor mechanic for such a huge in game effect.

  4. I say it is strategically dangerous because of the randomness. Note it is strategically dangerous, not actually dangerous. As you say there isn't much chance of things actually happening to your guys.
    BUT a player typically has a plan when playing the game and has an idea of what he wants to happen when and where, and if you are hoping that a deep striking unit can perform a certain task, that is a risk and you can potential ruin your whole strategy if the randomness is not in your favour. Thus you endangered your plan, and potentially left units unsupported that are now at risk of being destroyed.

    THe danger is not the act of deepstriking, it is the planning on it.

  5. Gotta agree with some others here; deep-striking itself is not very dangerous.

    What's dangerous is dropping your troops piecemeal into the battle; often without the support they need to stay alive if they don't kill their intended target. So it becomes a simple risk-reward calculation. One made harder to justify when 1/2 to 2/3rds of the armies out there have access to the inquisitor + mystics combo.

  6. I have to agree with Sonoftaurus here, for the reasoning behind it. I myself play a mostly deep striking capable Chaos Space Marine force. Termies, Lesser Demons, and Oblits are those elements, and yes it can suck if they don't show... however, on the converse side of this, I've had everything show up on turn 3 and overwhelm my opponent.

    The risk of losing 60% of my force is worth it for moments like that, because the mechanic is random I don't think very many players use it. Just like with CSM Possessed random abilities... because they are random it goes against what a player would like to have, reliability on the battlefield. I don't think the mechanic needs fixing... your jumping through space, atmosphere, chaos... it should be risky, but feels like it can pay-off. Otherwise , if it's too risky with no pay-off, it will be a mechanic no one will want to use which would be sad.

  7. I think it is deemed "Dangerous" as an opposite to "safe". Safe strategies behave as predicted, "dangerous" units are unpredictable. Valuable because they can still score... but "dangerous" because they can deviate from a pre-set plan.

  8. How about a plasma gun then?
    Dangerous or random?

    It doesn't change your balistic skill, it doesn't change your target, it doesn't change what it does to an opponent when it hits, you don't have to roll each turn to see if you can even use it this time... there's nothing random about using it.
    It fires like every other weapon.

    But it's dangerous... there is a chance it will overheat on you.

  9. Actually the plasmagun is a good parallel - it is both random and risky. I think you're taking it a bit too far with "it doesn't change your target" and such - it's not like DS is completely random placement either, like "divide table into 400 equal sized grids and use randomizer to determine where unit lands" - you have some element of control as to where you place them.

    As said, plasma is a good comparison. It's potentially powerful, but comes with a risk, based on a random roll. Take a marine with a plasma cannon - blast, so resolved via scatter (random in itself, but let's ignore that part) - on a 1 in 6, it in fact does NOT fire, and you risk killing the guy firing it. For each shot, the risk of killing your own guy is low, but there, and has to be balanced out against the potential of dishing out that S7 AP 2 blast love - the reward. Further there's the risk of even if you make your save, you still risk not being able to fire at a critical time.

  10. Here's an idea that would reduce the random (but not remove) and make it more dangerous. After infiltration, you designate where your deep strikers are going to come in. They still come in randomly as normal, but of course your opponent knows where they are trying to enter, and if he can get troops/vehicles into the spot your deep strike would fail. Ditch the scatter and your good to go. Maybe also make it so you can wait until a later turn to designate where the deep strike will occur, but you don't roll for the unit to appear until the turn after you declare where they're coming in.
    That would make the "danger" entirely on your opponent.

  11. I think a bit of a difference between the article that MR was writing on Magic and its application to 40k is in the mechanics at hand.

    Mark wrote a lot about how Magic players perceive things to work- there are acceptable ways for the randomness to come into play. The library (for those not in the know, the shuffled contents of your deck) is the main source of this randomness, and that's built into the very fabric of the game. So that's fine. But add in things like dice or coin flipping and suddenly THAT source of randomness isn't acceptable- you can't plan for the outcome like you can with random deck flips as literally anything can happen instead of one of the outcomes you chose.

    In 40k, we have a bit of a different outlook on things. EVERYTHING in the game is decided by dice, so EVERYTHING is pretty much completely random. We accept this randomness and many get upset when this randomness is taken away from us- like the #$%@ing Jaws of the World Wolf. There just isn't enough randomness to justify it in the context of the game as a whole, making a lot of people angry about it.

    But I digress. Scatter is also (well, at least in 5th ed- can't vouch for older editions) ingrained into the fabric of the game. People don't skip on blast weapons because of scatter, but that's mostly because it can be better controlled due to the BS of the shooter.

    The way to make things "dangerous" in 40k is to add more randomness to it. This danger is generally pretty small- generally a 1 in 6 chance, so not terribly dangerous given the nature of the game. Deep strike is much, much more dangerous than this to your own planning as well as the enemy's and to your models' welfare as the potential deviations are much greater.

    You mention randomness about it coming in when you want it to... well, that's reserves in general. I'd wager it's a good deal less random than outflanking in this regard. The random effect table I could see doing away with, but beyond that it operates pretty much like every other aspect in the game.

    I can understand why some people don't like DSing, but you have to admit that it is based on the game's core fundamentals. If you want to play a game that is less random, play Magic. If you want to roll with dice, play a wargame.

    As an additional note, a way you could make DSing less dangerous would be to add some difference in skill to different DSers. We see this a bit already in Stormtroopers and Descent of Angels, but some kind of scatter reduction.

    This of course makes it a good deal less dangerous, though, so I wonder what you mean by "dangerous?" Would you like them to make a dangerous terrain check upon landing, but take away the scatter? Should the enemy have a chance to shoot them down if they prepare for a turn? It will still involve dice, and therefore randomness, but I'm curious to see what you think a good replacement would be.

  12. My belief is that deepstriking is a game concept that insead of being dangerous (and using dice to represent the chance of that particular danger like the plasma gun) uses (more like relies completely on)randomness and skips out on the danger aspect. In turn it becomes a game concept that is weak in my mind.

    Look at all the little ways GW has tried to improve it over time. Some armies have this benefit, some have that... but deep striking is random. They try to take some of the randomness out and say they are removing "danger."

    I'd like to see the randomness removed and replaced with something dangerous, something that makes deep striking work in the game, is dangerous to do and isn't just a bunch of random rolls you make hoping to get a somewhat favorable result.
    I think if deep striking worked more intuitively like Infiltrating does (and I'm not saying to use the Infiltrating rules), I think you'd have more people doing it and it would become a greater part of the game overall.

  13. I remember 4th edition when a unit scattered where it wasn't supposed to, it died.

    Deep strike is fine the way it is. Oh! random stuff makes the game fun. If everything was as predicted, we might as well play chess.

  14. I agree, Deep Striking is fine. I was just working on a blog about it so I won't post it here. ;)

  15. The danger is not in the randomness of the deep strike scatter but rather the location of the deep strike. Choosing the corner of the table is inherently more dangerous than in the center of a 14" radius wide open field. The closer enemy units, impassible terrain and table edge the further you increase the chances of a mishap. This is where the danger in deepstriking occurs. Is it dangerous to fire a large template weapon? No as the scatter accounts for the inaccuracy of the shot. The scatter for deep striking accounts for that same inaccuracy. In the end its you on how dangerous the deep strike is.

  16. In terms of DSing's effect on the game...I don't think anything needs to be done. As a tool for a couple of units, it works. As an army-wide tool, it sucks though. That's why Daemons don't work well as a competitive entity (beyond being hard-pressed against mech). They are so random and have no ability to nullify this. Pod armies at least get to pick which "half" of their army comes on and then can DS very aggressively due to DP rules. Blood Angels don't scatter as much and can re-roll their to enter roll if they wish.

    That's what DS armies need, a reduction in the random mechanic as this makes your army work as you planned it to.

  17. Here's my post:
    Basically, it's a 16.5% risk if done with a safe margin distance of 8" or ~24% at a more competitive 4" distance. Blood Angels chops that in half.

  18. The problem Ron is that all danger in the game is generated randomly and just influenced by the player's choices.

    Is it dangerous for guardsmen to fight terminators? Yes. Is it random? Yes. Why? Because it is still based all off dice rolls. It is a statistical possibility that the guardsmen roll all 6's and the Terminators roll all ones (saves included). Random chance. But because of the Statistical likelihood of the happening is low, it is dangerous to do this.

    Same could be said of deep striking and plasma blastguns. The statistics are just easier to notice and think about in these cases, thus appearing more "random" in terms of game mechanics.

    Really though the only game mechanics that aren't are movement and target selection. Everything else is "random"

  19. Most 40k game mechanics are set up for risk vs reward. This is a dice game. Random comes along with the teritory. Quite a few armies also have selections that negate the risk.

  20. The change to DS in 5th made it so your entire unit of DS'ers get screwed if something goes wrong. In 4th, if you DS and a couple guys in the squad land on difficult terrain or another unit - those guys die, not the entire unit.
    The ironic thing is GW's made many changes to streamline other rules to make the whole game flow better, but DS they've made more complicated and more risky.

    Yes, it's random. But it's also dangerous - Lets consider that DS units are also usually much more expensive. So to top everything off, you're randomly chancing some of your most expensive models into oblivion.

    They're also exposed, because you're dropping them into the open (probably a large open space so they don't scatter into anything) and can't move into cover. Previously, I was willing to drop a unit into cover and lose anyone who scattered into walls and such.

    Lets also consider that some armies are receiving new drop transports / beacons that allow them to DS without worry - this is a _huge_ advantage in DS mechanics, and everyone doesn't have this option.

    As I look at it now, I'll use jump troops for their mobility, but stopped DSing them after too many games of holding my most expensive models in reserve, only to have them a) fall back into reserve, b) be wiped out completely, c) scatter somewhere useless, d) scatter off the board e) be immediately wiped out and finally f) arrive too late.

    There's a difference between random and dangerous. Deep Strike was already dangerous. I was willing to try to DS near my opponent and lose a couple guys, or DS behind enemy lines, knowing that the scatter might throw me off the table.

    I have to agree with the origonal point of the post - people like to create strategies for 40k. The game is build around strategy. As such, there's a definate difference between a risky/dangerous strategy and throwing everything to the randomness of 1 die a turn for reserves, 1 for location, 2 for distance and another 1 for mishap in a 2 foot diameter landing zone. In 4th ed, DS was an acceptable risk, in 5th it's not acceptable without drop pods or beacons, which not every army gets. 40k isn't just "a dice game". Dice are the mechanic for determining how tactics and odds play out, but shouldn't be the major determining factor on whether a tactic fails or succeeds.

    Dangerous, is sending str 4 weapons against tough 5 models. Random is firing a single heavy weapon at a land raider. Where should deep strike fit in? Now, on the scale of dangerous vs random, it's fallen more on the random side of things.


    On a side note, look at Flanking. It's the new Deep Strike. You consider that a unit held in reserve to flank potentially threatens up to 60" or more of the board. (6-12" move + 1-6" fleet + 6/12" charge OR 6-12" move + gun range, x 2 for either side) Downsides? Just reserve rolls and the "scatter" determines which table edge you come in on, with zero chance of losing someone immediately.

  21. I was so excited about this title. Finally someone who is totally on the side of Deep Strike as a tactic. Oh well, I'm deeply misled. It just sounded like you were going to defend the safety of Deepstriking compared to the general idea of most people that it is too dangerous. Kind of funny to hear someone say it's too safe.

  22. Joe: Sorry to have misled you. Deepstriking is a viable tactic. I use it when the situation warrants and won't hesitate to put my guys in very tight spots if that's where they would work best.

    I still maintain it's not dangerous but random.


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