Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Showdown

After looking through many of the army codex's out there of all shapes and sizes... the Imperium of man in all their many codexes has brought me to a interesting rivalry style question.

Plasma or Melta?

Most people say it is based on one's play style, and to a point I'd agree. Plasma obviously has the range to be a much earlier hitting weapon baring the use of first or early hitting devices (such as a drop pod). This difference alone is a drastic definition of the two weapon's purposes, however along with this they style (rapid fire vs assault) also says a lot of what they are meant for.

But on this bothers me over all other things. The plasma weapons were one of the best things since sliced bread in the old 4th edition rules. Many an army would spam them and it would be hard to cross a field of plasma fire since shooting had a distinct edge in 4th. So naturally the weapon was somewhat balanced by the annoyance of "Gets Hot." This was a nice way of balancing the boon of such an awesome weapon on the tabletop. But now that 5th has come around, and shooting isn't the simply job it was, assault has taken over, and with it the melta gun rules supreme as special weapon's choice.

But wait... what's this? Where's the balancing rule? There isn't one. Where, for some reason, when firing a plasma weapon it can get hot and explode in your face... the meltagun that fires a fusion blast capable of destabilizing and destroying anything it touches at the molecular level has no problems what so ever. Let's also add AP1 for tank destruction as that is kind of melta's thing (always has been), but with 5th this became increasingly powerful. And to finish things off lets add the boon of The Melta Rule. We all know this one, and while it may sometimes be hard to close the gap, it is not impossible by any means, as well as the added help of some 5th rules like run, the new wound allocation, and mech being very helpful for closing gaps fast.

Now looking at the two weapons we know they are meant to do different things. A Plasma gun is a ranged infantry killer, while the meltagun counterpart is a close range tank hunter. Both do their job decently. Their larger cousins do the same tings as their respective smalls, are similar in nature. However, where the cannon gains range as well as turning into a small blast, the multi-melta simply turns into a longer range meltagun. But this is what kills me. While plasma can do a great many things, it's only S7 (so not much Instant Death caused by these guys outside of non-marine) as well as AP2 (no bonus on the chart). It has a longer range, but the Gets Hot rule is a very dangerous problem, causing the weapon not to fire, as well as the possibility of losing it. And the funniest thing to me, is that the plasma weapons are always 5 points more than their melta counterparts (save the old 4th ed. codexes like my Templars Codex).

To me this is interesting. In 4th they knew plasma was the more useful and slected weapon, so they costed it high, and made it dangerous. Now in 5th, Melta rises to the grand poo bah of guns, and they leave it as a cheap and easy buy. I'm not sure why, but it strikes me as interesting. I guess I don't see the short range being all that much of a balance when it comes to what seems to be the single best weapon in the game, as well as it's over abundance out if necessity feel it has in many armies.

Have any thoughts on the matter?



  1. Nicely written article, Loki. I was going to post my thoughts in a longer form, but that's my next article now. I will simply say that each has its own uses and on the whole plasma still has a place in 40k, it just gets overlooked.

  2. I agree, it always makes me mad, cause I'd like to take my chances with rapid fire plasma vs light AV even with get's hot, but the point costs is just too high. Not to mention plasma pistols, costing the same. It's like wtf. I have been working on a Vulkan like character that would boost plasmas up to their actual point cost.

  3. I understand fully the fact Plasma still has a place. Hope I didn't come off as saying that plasma is useless :P

    My point was simply in my eyes melta has a clear advantage in many ways, yet remains cheaper and more prevalent in most armies. I love me some Plasma, but paying a higher cost for a weapon that could feasibly kill itself seems tactically unsound.

    In my opinion if the points cots for the melta and plasma weapons were switched, I would probably chance plasma more often.

  4. I think you need both in your arsenal to handle all-comers. The melta are great at taking out heavy armour (12 and up), but the plasma are pretty good at helping with light armour (11 and below). Having a good number of both spread throughout your force helps against almost any foe.

    Sadly, any time anything is deemed too powerful (ie. plasma), the next version of that codex over-compensates for that combo. No more min-maxed las-plas squads, and all plasma is wicked expensive. While melta on the the other hand didn't get abused under the last version, so it was left alone to be abused now. Countering lots of melta is fairly easy for most armies: massed troops. This leads me back to my first point; you need a mixture of both.

  5. I do agree, I love the Plasma Gun, and The plasma Cannon. However, I get the ability to take both plasma guns and melta guns in my reg squads together. Go Go Space Wolves. However, I would have to say that the reason why GW did not change the point cost on Melta is because they pushed Mech so every list needed a great counter weapon. Therefore, cheap Melta. But that is neither here nor there.