8th Edition Rant Follow-Up: ITC Missions and “Return Fire”

Good day, fellow murderous ’58 Plymouth Furies! Today I follow up on my sad, bitter post about the state of 8th edition. A lot of the commenters offered useful advice and I am deeply grateful for it. There was also a lot of discussion on implementing some sort of alternating unit activation mechanic. I’m going to tackle some of this stuff here.

ITC Missions

A lot of folks have directed me towards the new (draft?) ITC missions due to my dislike of tablings (or rather, the unfunness of continuing a game when it’s clear you are going to get tabled). For those unfamiliar with the missions in questions, they are available on Frontline Gaming’s website (in the ITC section) but I will briefly summarise how they work:

  • First, and most importantly, getting tabled does not automatically give you a score of 0 for the game. You get to keep the points you accumulated over the course of the match. This is HUGE to keep you motivated even when it’s obvious you are going to get tabled, given that you may lose the game but your overall score may still keep you in the running. And it’s entirely possible to get tabled and still win the game if you dominated your opponent on achieving the mission objectives.
  • Secondly, points are scored on a turn-by-turn basis. This is key because otherwise the above would be pretty moot. You also score points both for holding objectives AND killing units, which helps to balance the scales between MSU and “rock” armies.
  • Thirdly, secondary objectives are selected rather than generated. This has nothing to do with my gripes about tabling, but it’s still a nice feature because it’s one less thing Lady Luck can screw you over with.

I think there’s still some tweaking to be done but overall, these missions seem like a VAST improvement over the BRB missions and the ETC format. I’ll caveat that by saying I’ve not actually played them, but when folks tell me these help a lot with the issues I brought up in my rant, I’m inclined to believe them.

Now, I can only hope that the folks that run tournaments in my neck of the woods will be willing to give these a try!

An Alternative to Alternating Unit Activation…

Another thing we talked a lot about in the comments is how GW seems to have missed the boat by retaining the ancient IGOUGO mechanic when they designed 8th edition. A lot of peeps felt as I did that moving to an alternating unit activation model would have avoided a lot of the problems many (though not all, in fairness) have said they have experienced with frequent tablings. GW have stated that they trialed alternating activation but found “it didn’t scale well”… I am *ahem* skeptical.

I’ve been mulling over this a lot in my head, and had begun writing a short set of houserules to implement a homebrew alternating activation mechanic (which I may complete at some point) before I was struck by an idea. I came to realise that perhaps fixing the issue with alpha/beta strikes doesn’t really necessitate reworking the entirety of the base mechanics of 40k.

Indeed, maybe there is a simpler solution… and so I give you Return Fire:

“Return Fire: When a model dies in the Shooting Phase, it may fire its weapons before being removed from play. This applies to both players’ models; however, if a model had already fired during the phase, it may not fire again and is simply removed from play. To avoid confusion, wait until a unit has completed all of its shooting before conducting Return Fire. If a player triggers Return Fire while he is himself conducting Return Fire, he must complete all already-triggered Return Fire before his opponent can resolve his own Return Fire.”

In case it isn’t clear (and it may not be – I will readily admit the wording I employed is a bit on the dense side; any suggestion on alternate, clearer syntax would be welcome), Return Fire ensures that your models will always get a chance to shoot at least once per game before dying, whether you get the first turn or not. Not only that, but it helps break up the long periods between a player’s turns where he does little but roll armour saves and remove models.

Below is an example of how this would play out. Please note that I purposefully made it complex to illustrate how a convoluted scenario would be resolved. I don’t believe this is truly representative of how most situations involving Return Fire would happen.

“Joe splits the fire of his squad of Firewarriors to shoot at Sandy’s Tactical Squad and Devastator Squad. The Firewarriors resolve their shooting at the Tactical Squad first and kill two Marines with Boltguns. Before the Tactical Squad can Return Fire, Joe finishes his shooting with the Firewarriors and kills two Devastators: the Sergeant and a Lascannon-equipped Marine. Sandy then starts her Return Fire by selecting the Tacticals and shooting one dead Marine at the Firewarrirors that killed him and the other dead Marine at a nearby unit of Kroot that have not fired yet in this Shooting Phase. The Tacticals kill one Firewarrior and one Kroot, and are then removed from the tabletop. Before Joe can Return Fire himself, Sandy must resolve her Return Fire with the Devastators first. She does so by having the dead Sergeant shoot at the same Kroot unit that already suffered a casualty but fails to kill any more. She then shoots the dead Lascannon Marine at an already-damaged Hammerhead and successfully blows it up, which then kills 2 nearby Gun Drones. The dead Sergeant and Lascannon Marine are then removed from the board. With Sandy having completed her Return Fire, Joe can then carry out his own Return Fire for the dead Kroot, Hammerhead and Gun Drones, remembering that the Firewarrior cannot Return Fire because it had already shot in this Shooting Phase. If this in turn causes more Return Fire on Sandy’s part, she will have to wait until all of Joe’s models have completed their Return Fire before carrying out further Return Fire herself. If none of Joe’s units cause any casualties to Sandy’s army, the Shooting Phase continues as normal: Joe selects his next unit and resolves all of its shooting, with Sandy resolving any Return Fire triggered.”

One concern I have is that people may end up losing track of how many models in which units need to perform Return Fire, but this can be easily remedied by simply placing some dice next to the unit, or turning the “dead” models around so they face away from the direction the rest of the unit is facing while they wait to perform their Return Fire.

While we’re playing amateur game designer, let’s tackle another thing that I find problematic with the IGOUGO mechanic:

“Opening Gambit: During the first Battle Round, the player going second may carry out his Movement Phase before the player going first does so.”

The point of Opening Gambit is to allow for the player going second a chance to get out of his deployment zone before starting to get pummeled – you World Eaters players using Rhino-borne ‘Zerkers will understand why this is important. It will also help avoid situations where things like Vectored Engines and Smoke Launchers (which would need to be FAQed to be usable in the Movement Phase, but that’s a minor quibble) never have a chance to get used because you got unlucky and went second.

I have yet to trial these rules at home but am eager to do so. If anyone else is interested in trying them out, please let me know how it went for you!

Well, that’s enough fun for the day! I hope you enjoyed my musings, and bid you farewell!


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69 responses to 8th Edition Rant Follow-Up: ITC Missions and “Return Fire”

The problem with dropping Igougo is that you come across huge variations in unit numbers at my last tournament I ran 33 I think there was a knight player running 4. If you alternate you end up with the knight player guaranteeing that they can activate all there models before I've activated 10%. It massively favors elite and vehicle based armies.

The problem with return fire is that 1) It benefits shooty armies when assault armies are presently disadvantaged. If you kill my hamminators I fire my non existent guns while if I kill your storm raven I get shot. 2) A lot of players complaint is that the game is to fast. Adding an extra layer of shooting is just going to speed it up. 3) The army that benefits most is artillery and bubble wrap because if the artillery shoots the units it out ranges they never get to fire back and guard don't need a boost.

As to Opening Gambit 1) I GW have neutered tactical deployment by making terrain not function however you end up with a situaion where everyone on turn 1 can deploys as close to the enemy as they can encase they go first knowing they can run to cover if they dont 2) If its an extra movement phase Green tide players thank you as they become one of the most overpowered armies in the format. If you dont get a move phase and your just moving it then it makes no difference in terms of how fast you move towards the enemy the only difference is being able to pop smoke launchers which almost noone competant ever does outside of a few rare scenarios

A simpler fix would be either -1 BS in battle round 1 weakening tun 1 shooting . or -1 BS at over half range. Weakening artillery.

>It massively favors elite and vehicle based armies.

Wellllllll…. not exactly. Remember, going ahead of the enemy isn't always an advantage- indeed, if you've ever played any games with alternating activation (such as Infinity, Malifaux, etc), you will very quickly find that having a larger number of activations than your opponent is almost always an advantage. Against a pure Knight army, the MSU player can just piddle away four activations to force the Knight player to do everything first, then get the whole rest of the turn to act with their units completely unopposed.

Alternating activations would have completely changed how 40K functions on the tabletop, but I think it could've been feasible as a choice, so long as it was made early on in the design process.

I can’t comment on infinity but malifaux there is a much lower variance in model count you rarely see below 6 or more than 10/11. The extremes in unit numbers are rally watered down there are also a lot of benefits to smaller numbers in Malifaux such as having more good hand cards meaning most players don’t stretch to the upper extreme’s.

As to not always an advantage I can agree but the problems occur at the extremes and to knigts it almost always is as the range of there guns means they do most of the shooting T1 onwards and they arnt going to get in CC T1 anyway unless they are getting T1 deepstrike charged.

This contrasts to Malifaux when I can often spend my first turn positioning as my opponent is entirely out of range and I have nothing better to do

Yes – Epic has the same issue. More activations is much better, especially when it comes to objectives.

Battletech makes you take two actions at once when you have twice as many left to activate (and three, four, etc), which means both players get the same number of "turns", but it also has simultaneous shooting resolution, which IMHO bogs the game down.

This is one thing I liked about Stargrunt II. The player with less unactivated units can opt to skip activations until both players have an equal amount of unactivated units. Simple, yet it lets a player go “fine, you moved one Astropath. Take a *real* turn now.”

Bolt Action works on random activation quite well until you throw the IJA into the mix, quite often with my Japanese army I was able to pull 2-3 times the number of dice over my opponent, or if they were running elite armies (SS vet list, Rangers) it got even more dismal, I rarely lost with them.

Hi David!
Point by point:
-Yeah that is an issue I thought of when I was working on my homebrew alternating activation system. My solution was to assign each unit an "activation cost" dependant on their overall power. For example, a Knight would cost about 6 activation unit, so a Guard player could activate 6 infantry units each time the Knight player activates one of his units.
-1) In fairness, most assault units do have some sort of gun. 2) that's a matter of opinion. I'd rather have a shorter but more fulfilling and dynamic game than a longer, less exciting one. YMMV. 3) you don't have to shoot at the unit that killed you. you just get to shoot, period. So say your Basilisk nuke my Predator from across the board, my Pred can still shoot at whatever is in range of it.
-1) That's not a bad thing 2) It's not an extra movement phase; Opening Gambit just switched the order the players perform their first turn movement phase. And it DOES make a big difference for vehicle-borne assault armies. And smoke launchers don't get popped on Rhinos? Why wouldn't they?


If you more than double the number of units left to activate, activate three for one. If you outnumber then activate two to one. Perform all end of movement actions after all normal activations. Perform the same for each phase. It would work well as a combined turn would speed up gameplay.

The special rules are interesting. I would however rather decrease the deadliness of units shooting, so that your army is not half dead after turn one. In your scenario both armies would basically already kill each other mostly in the first turn, which makes for a very boring game where you just roll dice.
I like the idea of David more, where you get a -1 to shooting on more than half range. This worked on WHFB and 40k 2nd edition already.

The problem with that idea is that it affects different armies to in an unequal way. Marines and Eldar suffer a fair bit (25% reduction in hits) but Orks get completely buttf*cked (50% reduction).

EDIT: but I agree with you that reducing the overall firepower of armies would be ideal – its just that it would take a lot more effort to get it right. Like A LOT. Return Fire is a quick-if-imperfect fix.

Your idea, however, is also very unfair. Most melee centered armies will not have much benefit from it. Quite frankly the imperial armies, especially guard would benefit the most.

They neither gain nor lose much from Return Fire, so I don't really see it as an issue. And with Opening Gambit, they do gain quite a bit.

You could also enforce a mandatory amount of units off the board to start the top of the first. If you win the roll and are not seized on the opponent nominates d3 units to start the game in reserve, unable to come in until the second turn.

I think many of WH40k’s issues could be solved by playing on bigger tables. 6′ x 4′ is just too small given the large forces and numerous vehicles we now use compared to the small numbers of mostly infantry we all used back in Rogue Trade or Second Edition.

Yeah that for sure is a big part of the problem. Unfortunately, we run into the practical reality that playing on a bigger surface is difficult/impractical.

Would 6′ x 6′ really be that much harder to play on than 4′ x 6′? You only have to reach, at most, 12″ further than on the smaller table and most of the time far less.

Okay, so it’d be a bigger footprint for the table itself… But that’s not exactly a Gordian knot, furniture can be rearranged.

Ok. So by playing on a 6 by 6 table, you've effectively decreased the number of tables that can fit within a venue by a third, purely on space. In addition, it is now effectively impossible to reach across the table (the number of people who have 72 inches of reach without lying on the table is very limited.) This means that the tables need to be entirely freestanding, rather than butressed against each other, which means more space taken up, so once again, fewer tables.

The bigger your tables are, the fewer attendences you can possibly get at tournaments and gaming glubs.

I think this is where 40k comes a bit unstuck with 48" range weapons being common and melee ranges being huge thanks to RCL. 5th still had these issues with just ranged weapons and while armies like Tyranids and GK were disadvantaged from having lower threat shooting ranges, pretty much every other army operated at 36"+ which is hard to hide from with BLOS terrain.

What about simply playing with smaller army sizes? I've never understood why the gaming community seems to have decided that we simply must keep playing 1850-2000 point ranges even when it's become obvious that the amount of firepower thrown around at those levels makes alpha striking spectacularly effective.

That's a very good question, actually. 1850 pts was the tourney standard in 7th. I don't know why everyone decided to tack on an extra 150 pts in 8th…

I've been playing a bunch of games at different point levels lately.
Honestly, 1250 seems to be the way to go. It's enough to buy some fun toys, or to generate a coherent strategy, but not so much that every inch of the board is covered. Try some games out at 1250 and see if you don't agree.

Actually alpha striking becomes more and more effective the less points you have in armies. The very top tier alpha strike units are usually one offs:

Mortarion + Warp Time
Alpha Legion Infiltration
Ynarri Deep strike double tap/double fight
Raven Guard infiltration
Swarm Lord double move
Tyranid Catalyst errr no the other one forgot, advance and charge one.

The Alpha strike off these units is unbelievably good but every unit in an army that isn't them weakens that alpha strike so by the time you hit 4k points they are less than 10% and will get cleaned up super fast.

I have felt that for a long time myself, but in gaming clubs & tournaments there mostly likely isn't the room for larger tables, 40K now days probable needs a 8×6 table.

I don't think 6 x 8 is viable. I'm 6 feet tall myself and I find it mildly uncomfortable to reach mid-table to move models. An extra foot would mean I have to lean in at an extremely uncomfortable angle to reach the models. Someone shorter than I would really start to struggle.

I disagree a 25% effectiveness reduction to a lascannon has more impact than a 50% reduction to a shoota or slugga. While yes it has more of an impact effectiveness at Range due to BS. It has less impact because there strength and pts is not in their guns. Which is often where it is in the elite armies. It also has no penalty once you get close which orks are trying to do.

So all in all I think Green tide and other CC armies would benefit far more because they should have taken 25% fewer casualty by the time there choppas hit the space marines in a worst case scenario.

The army most disadvantaged would be guard as a shooting focussed army with 4+ shooting being more greatly effected than marine based shooty lists but personally marines need a buff comparative to guard so its not the end of the world

Tau would also get really hurt by that – though if you wanted to go as far as this for houserules, it would be very easy to change the Markerlight table to make 1 hit = ignore the range penalty to BS. Fluffy, too.

It might be possible to do something like
I move
U move
I psy
U psy
I shoot
U Shoot
But I'm still rather iffy on 100% alternating unit activations. The combat phase is already a mess with it.

GW’s own Lord of the Rings game does I-Phase-U-Phase, as do some other titles (ex: Flipit! Paper Combat). While it does lower the downtime between both players while being simpler than strict AltActivation, it makes the system more punishing for melee (“I move closer”, “I kite you. You’re not in charge range”), and still makes being the first-turn advantage the “first-shoot” advantage.

Several questions:

-Casualties in the shooting phase has its own edgecases. Does this mean that Guardsmen that Fix Bayonets and stab things can now be subject to death by Pistol? Does this mean that shooting outside of the shooting phase (ex: Acts of Faith/Soulburst) will trigger twice?
-How will Return Fire interact with abilities that let a unit shoot twice? (Ex: Aggressors shoot once, then die). Will the Return Fire simply count as one of their shooting attacks?
-Does Return Fire have to be against the unit that had triggered Return Fire?
-What happens if a unit dies in the Shooting Phase to an external cause that wasn’t necessarily an attack? Ex: an exploding transport.
-Can stratagems be used with Return Fire or against Return Fire? Could a unit shoot, then Take Cover?
-Do “immediately after shooting” Stratagems like Fire and Fade preclude Return Fire?

In order:
-Fix Bayonets is an interesting edge case but off the cuff yes, they could be shot by pistols. Soulbursts wouldn't activate twice, but Return Fire could cause Soulbursts to activate. Acts of Faith I'm not solid on so you'd have to be more precise on the issue.
-They would get to fire their second time before being removed. Same thing for stuff like Marine banners or Noise Marine special rule: a Marine near the banner would get to auto-shoot once thanks to Return Fire, and then auto-fire again on a 4+ thanks to the Banner. Noise Marines would just do Return Fire twice, basically.
-No, it can be against any unit. Otherwise it becomes too easy to game the system.
-It gets to shoot before being removed.
-I'm not sure what you mean. Are you asking if a model that does Return Fire can Fire and Fade?

-Acts of Faith happen in the Movement Phase. Ditto Soulburst via Word of the Phoenix in the Psychic Phase. Either lets a unit shoot “as though it is the Shooting Phase” though not specifically in the Shooting Phase.
-I am asking two things: If Shooting Phase Stratagems can trigger due to return fire (ex: Return Fire + Fire and Fade), and whether Shooting Phase Stratagems would pre-empt your opponent getting to Return Fire. For example, could a unit of Dark Reapers Fire and Fade before your opponent attempts to Return Fire?

In either case, the interaction of out-of-phase actions, counterstratagems, and “trigger on X” abilities is why I went for designing my game to place interrupts on a M:tG-like stack, especially since I’ve found stack-mechanics have been curiously absent from tabletop wargames.

-Then no, they wouldn't trigger Return Fire because they are not happening in the Shooting Phase.
-A unit with models Returning Fire couldn't Fire and Fade, because it's the dying models shooting, not the whole unit. The Dark Reapers could indeed Fire and Fade before they get Return Fire, however.

Acts of faith's happen before the movement phase, although there is now one that can be used if a character is killed, at least I thing that's how it work's I might need to have another look at it.

I don't think, no matter what it is worth considering alternative activation as anything but a thought exercise, if your going to try to balance 40k, theres the much more simple to implement of only remove casualties at the end of turn, that way going first has very little advantage.

Personally, I think just trying out one step in the right direction would probably balance things.

"roll off for choice of deployment and deployment location, or go first, opponent does the other"

This is an extremely simple change that can be implemented very easily, and sees a deployment advantage balance the massive advantage of first turn. See if this is enough to balance things a bit more and if it isn't move on to other changes.

" theres the much more simple to implement of only remove casualties at the end of turn, that way going first has very little advantage. "

Ah! Funny you say that because I came up with Return Fire after thinking of doing end-of-turn casualty removal. I was just a bit worried that folks woul end up getting confused as to which of their models were still alive and which were dead. Return Fire allows you to remove them progressively, so the chance of getting confused is reduced, plus it makes the game a bit more dynamic. BUT I would be PERFECTLY happy with just end-of-turn removal of casualties, tbqh.

If a unit has nothing to shoot, it wouldn’t have anything to shoot at in the current system either, so how is it anymore at a disadvantage than under the current system?

Well, I dunno, man, it's pretty simple, there's not so much to explain.

Your basic idea is that every unit gets a dead mans switch, can fire when it's killed, right?

OK, take two units, one has 6" move, 42" guns, of whatever. The other is 24" move, 24" guns.

Normal 40k, those both have the same threat range. You might prefer the 24" move, because positioning matters.

Your version, that's completely switched. You'd much prefer the 42" gun, so if it gets offed, something is much more likely to be in range.

Assuming they had the same characteristics otherwise, I'd probably prefer to go half of one unit type, half of the other. The 24 inch move can do things that the 6 inch move can't.

No, I don't think you would. The first unit is more or less guranteed to get its shot, the second one isn't.

Anyway, doesn't matter, point is it massively boosts the value of range. I kinda think it weird that had to be explained.

Right, because that's all 40k is about, right? Getting your shots in? Mobility has NO bearing whatsoever on your ability to win.

Anyways, I'm done. You don't like the idea? Fine, don't.

Oh, calm your tits. All I said is "I think that might make range matter too much", and then we back and forth for 8 or 9 comments about how you either didn't get or were pretending not to get how that might be so. (which I found strange)

That doesn't make it an awful idea, but it is a strike against it. Are you offended I didn't think your idea was perfect? Whatever.

But it doesn't, though (make range matter too much). At the end of the day, you usually have to move out of your deployment zone and get places, which will bring you in range of the enemy's guns. That's why no one builds armies focused solely on range now (even though you could), and the same would be true if Return Fire was implemented. And that's saying nothing of the myriad ways one can start many units 9 inches away from the enemy, nowadays. So when I asked you "how so?" it was because I wanted to know if you had thought of something that I had overlooked, not because I was playing dumb or not understanding that longer-ranged units will have a greater chance to Return Fire than a shorter-ranged one.

So, the newer ITC missions are much better, and did address a lot of the issues, mainly that contesting objectives was pointless since you could just kill people and score at end of game. I previously cited how space marines and other elite troops were total shit, because the ability to contest objectives was made worthless by the ITC scoring system, whereas in maelstrom missions it was of vital importance. Hence the disparity in the usefulness of scouts in GW tournies and ITC ones.

Now they changed it back to normal 40k, with the ability to hold objectives able to win you the game, things are quite a lot better but i should maybe point out some of the other changes are at best misguided, at worst pure propoganda.

The anti tabling rules are whats known as a fucking joke.

In any game of 40k you play (especially against me) you have to protect your army from getting alpha struck, because a successful alpha strike, whether you are tabled or not, means you have no way to win the game. The alpha strike leads to tabling, but it is not the purpose of the alpha strike, and thus the flaw in the anti tabling rules. They do a grand total of nothing to make games more balanced or solve alpha striking, all they do is mean you turn some random unit into your gimp as you refuse to kill it and farm points. This has already happened in multiple games, and judges do nothing, they can;t no one is breaking any rules.

All this means is games drag out, still aren't fun and in fact increase the duration of the misery, net result, tournaments are less fun, which sure balanced rules are great, but having fun playing the game is sort of vital, and when rule balance gives nothing so be it.

If someone has an army that is capable of tabling the other, give them all the points and move on, they almost certainly have the capability to get them all anyway. Worse still I actually won a game where my alpha strike failed to inflict enough damage and was cleaned up, but i was able to hold mid for 4 turns, netting me enough to win the primary no matter what my opponent did on T5 and 6. Essentially, glass cannon units can still beat resilient units even when you mess up, the one thing we don't need is more encouragement for glass cannons in 40k thanks.

End of the day, if you get tabled it really is back to the drawing board to work out a better army, since i think outside fringe cases (Raven Guard/Alpha Legion/Ynarri) I don't think that armies should consistently table balanced forces.

So overall i would say two steps forward one back, good ideas but some of them horribly flawed.

I don't see why someone would bother with leaving a "gimp" as you say it, since if they table their opponent, they get all primary and secondary mission points anyways.

"Worse still I actually won a game where my alpha strike failed to inflict enough damage and was cleaned up, but i was able to hold mid for 4 turns, netting me enough to win the primary no matter what my opponent did on T5 and 6."

That's a feature not a bug as far as I'm concerned.

Maybe, but i don't think we need to help out the alpha striking armies, its their decision to all in and make games a 1 turn thing

In historical miniature games since the 70s when I was in high school they have used one of the 3 systems. SYSTEM ONE where player A moves, shoots, charges, melee, morale, routs, then on to player B..
SYSTEM TWO where player A moves, player B gets to react fire (normal shooting OR -1 shooting), player A then resolves shooting, charges, melee, morale, and routs, then on to player B.
SYSTEM THREE where player A moves, both players shoot (player A selects targets and resolves shooting and player B selects targets and resolves shooting) THEN casualties are removed and morale taken. Then both players declare charges, resolve melee, routs, then on to player B.

One player moving then both players firing simultaneously and both players doing charges is the most balanced, but balance has a price—time. It takes longer. Plus ANY change to the system alters how armies play. Both players firing AND charges each player turn means each army is firing twice a turn. Units in range to charge can do so no matter whose turn it is benefits failed charges and units being in range to charge. Any change to eliminate tabeling would have to incorporate both players firing at same time. Even if movement alternated but shooting phase was simul. I tried it with a tourney once. Same rules as now but both players shoot at same time (inactive player at -1). It works. Far from perfect but players liked that they got to shoot and not just player 1 moving up, blasting them to dust, then survivors and reserves retaliate. Also note—1000 point games with current system had less tableing than 1850 and 2000.

If you field Magnus and Morty as your two detachments in 1k pts, despite being under points by over 150 you still threaten to table virtually anything and anything you don't table only survives by tabling you.

The issue is in fact more pronounced, just most people playing 1k aren't complete douches so field more sensible armies.

I wonder if limiting it to smaller games (1k pts) AS WELL as requiring one of your detachments to be a patrol/battalion/brigade would help.

GW play-tested the alternate turns and found it didn't scale up. That's it for 8th edition. So if you can't handle that; do what I did for the terrible 7th edition rules – I played a different game.

It's easy to remember with fewer chances for cheating (wanting to move the same model twice etc) or forgetting who goes first.

Your suggestion is already possible in the game … take an ancient etc.

GW uses a simple gaming mechanism as it is attractive to new players. I have played "I move, you shoot etc" gaming mechanisms and they are ok for serious tournaments AFTER you've played lots of different games. BUT I won't want to play six of those over a week-end.

"Your suggestion is already possible in the game … take an ancient etc. "

Not every army has an ancient, the ancient doesn't work on tanks, and even on infantry, it doesn't work automatically. So it's not even remotely the same thing.

I'm also extremely skeptical of GW's claims about alternating activation. Many games manage to make it work, so why couldn't they?

While I think a bit more active player engagement in all phases of the game would be good I also think that the Return Fire is highly skewed in terms of which armies can use it well.

What we do have already is a model for limited alternating activation in the Counter-Offensive stratagem. I think you might want to consider having an equivalent stratagem for each phase of the game so that the passive player has some decisions to make and potentially something they can do about the onslaught. Stratagems are naturally self-limiting but also more flexible – you avoid the constant-interruption problem that so many players hated with Ynnari but still have an ability for the player on the receiving end of an alpha-strike to hit back to mitigate the effects or to power up key defences. Counter-Offensive gives a little of that ability when the alpha-strike is with assault but lacking a counter-charge component it is weak even against that; permitting counters in each phase feels to me would go with the grain of the current game mechanics and approach while still shifting the balance of power away from the alpha-strike.

Adding a counter-stratagem for each phase would be a change I personally would be happy to try out – whereas I fear the army-wide rules you propose could get just as out of hand as the problem they attempt to solve.

A stratagem would already be better than nothing, though I don't think it highly skews anything towards any particular army. You have to put it in context: an Ork Boyz mob-heavy army may not get to use Return Fire much, but concurrently, whatever army they will face won't get to use Return Fire a great deal either because the Boyz will spend most of their time Advancing and then charging/fighting (instead of shooting). By the time they're in range to use their sluggas (and cause Return Fire), they themselves will be able to Return Fire.

Just reduce the range of all guns. It has the same affect as increasing board size. Maybe reduce all ranges by half or at least a quarter. This way the first turn alpha strike will be limited to not as many weapons. Oh and institute a blanket -1 to hit with any weapon that targets a unit out of LOS.

Now you need to move a little before shooting up the enemy and artillery won’t work as well behind a screen.

Drop ranges by a quarter. That will do it. Lascannons at 36”. Assault cannons at 18”. Now we are talking.