Hey guys, I got another game in over the weekend and actually recorded quite a long video for it but it didn't turn out how I wanted. Since it was about an hour I thought it best to learn from my audio mistakes and just do a writeup as most of the video was me talking about the new ITC Missions. I am trying to make some cooler video content as I know some people like it and it's fun to do outside of Battle Reports, I'm just trying to get better at the whole thing.
I'll briefly touch on the game, I took the Chaos list I've been testing against my buddy Nick who I've played several times. He was taking Death Guard as per usual although with a bit of a twist this time. The list list was as follows:
Demon Prince of Nurgle w/ 2x Malefic Talons, Warpbolter, The Supprating Plate (Warlord)
Chaos Sorcerer in Terminator Armor w/ Force Axe
Chaos Lord in Terminator Armor w/ Power Axe
10 Blightlord Terminators w/ Combi-Plasma, 2 Flails of Corruption, 8 Bubonic Axes
I was happy to see this list because while it's far from optimized, and indeed has an illegal Terminator entry since they lose the Combi-Bolter for the Flail, it has a lot of heavy shooting which I need to throw Magnus/Mortarion into. That being said I still felt very advantaged in the matchup.
Unfortunately the game wasn't very exciting as Nick Conceded on the Top of Turn 2. He made a huge mistake by letting me go first as he thought the range on my Cultists were shorter which meant Turn 1 I killed about half the Poxwalkers, put up my defensive buffs, and took the board. On Nick's Turn he did get Magnus down to 6 Wounds and killed some Cultists by getting a Charge off with the Terminators and some Poxwalkers, although Abaddon cut down most of the Poxwalkers before they could leverage their attacks and make more.
On my turn I killed the Terminators, all the Poxwalkers, and an Obliterator. Magnus was out of position since he failed a medium Charge into the Demon Prince but even though he was likely to die next turn the game was over. Mortarion would move into the army, hit everything with both his auras, get a great gunshot and then start murdering Characters. Even without that the amount of Smite I had access to via the Malefic Lords would likely drop a Character a turn and I had run of the whole table with the Cultists.
Sadly the game was very sloppy, Nick made several big mistakes like the turn order and fighting first with his Terminators which let me interrupt with Abaddon into the Poxwalkers. As I told Nick I think there's a list in there but it needs a way to kill screens and it probably has to turn the Terminators into Mark of Slaanesh, the double shooting is too good. 4++ and FNP is great but the package is so expensive that it just has to do work. Poxwalkers are also very poor in small units, it's spam them or take Cultists/Brimstones to fill up Troops. Even Plague Marines would have been far more useful.
With that said, I'd love to talk about the new ITC Missions. I've been able to play them twice now and watched several more games in person while talking to my local guys. The consensus is they're certainly improved, which I'd agree with. However I do still see some noticeable flaws.
This will be the longest section. Let's start with simplicity. The new Missions are less overall bookkeeping in my experience than the old ones, you don't have to track "categories" of Objective, you don't have to track changing Objectives via Maelstrom, and there's less math to do at the games end. All of that matters a lot for tournament play, which these are focused on it feels, meaning TO's can get things figured out faster and players can be a bit more relaxed.
To continue this trend the Missions are much easier to setup. TOs can deploy 4/6 Missions between Rounds and the other two have less setup which means more time for actual play. This is extremely important as I'll touch on later. While not setting up your own Objectives does remove some skill I think it's a smart concession for both casual and tournament play. I'd rather have less to track and more time to roll dice.
What makes up for the Objective placement is the Secondary Objectives which are lifted from this years NOVA Open. These are a bit simplistic, it's very obvious when you take each one, but they are a way to keep things simple and inject some skill back into the Missions. Another bright spot for me is the guaranteed Turn Length, I've always thought Random Game Length is horrible and removes skill from the game since you cannot plan for things. Having a game go 6-7 Turns is doable, having it go 5-7 is quite bad in my opinion and I was happy to see it go.
I like that it's very clear when and how each Player scores. These come in the form of Round, Turn, and Anytime scoring. As stated by the ITC the Round ones are an effort to balance going first and second. It's not nearly enough and I'm sure tournaments/testing will bear that out but at least it's something. These feel like more of a chance at playing spoiler than putting the game on equal footing.
Movement is now a huge part of the game. With the last ITC Missions there was still too much reward, and there probably still is for my taste, on grabbing Objectives late game or just tablilng your opponent. Since you got a full, immediate, win for a tabling the game was just power play against power play. There's now more room for armies that focus on the Mission which makes things like Mechanized lists better.
Finally we have the scoring, which is only really relevant for Tournaments. It's written that you only score what you score although if you table your opponent you're considered to get all the Primary and Secondary Points they can for the rest of the game. These points are also the primary tie-breaker so if several people share a record they're ordered by their score. This makes more defensive armies quite powerful as they can play to the Mission but also hold off from the tablings that are common right now in the meta. This, combined with more emphasis on early and often movement, will hopefully shake things up.
Most of my complaints revolve around a continued emphasis on killing your opponents army. This is something 40K Players really seem to struggle with but the secret is simple: Your army is already rewarded for killing the other army. You don't need MORE reasons to do that! In the last packet we had way too many "Destroy a Unit" results, here we have the same thing for both Round AND Turn scoring but on top of that it's all but two of the Secondary Objectives. Ugh!
This is where 40K needs to rip off Warmachine wholesale. Privateer Press Scenarios traditionally had nothing to do with removing models, they had to do with holding ground and positioning. You were tasked with holding Circles, Flags, and Zones. There were instances when you had to destroy Objectives, which were reasonably tough, but those Objectives did NOT cost you anything and did NOT buff the other army. They were a pure Scenario piece. This was changed near the end of MkII I believe, or at the beginning of MkIII, to provide some buffs which I think was a bad thing.
40K could easily copy this. Why not put different sized Objectives into the game? Not everything has to be the same size, maybe one area of the table is more important than the others. Put a Zone in the middle and put Objectives on the flanks. This would force armies forward and make them put stuff into the Zone, buffing melee armies which need the help, but also gives some incentive to have fast units or small skirmishes on the flanks. Sure it would require some templates and such but so many other games do it and I've never seen that stop anyone from playing.
Continuing my example, why not make the Secondary Objectives more interesting? How about instead of Kingslayer I have to get my own Character to a certain place on the table and they have to survive until my next turn. This is similar to a concept called Dominating in Warmachine where you would score more if important models were on Objectives, although they could be held by less important models for a lower reward. Tactical! Will you risk your Warlord on my side of the table, or will you give up those points?
Even the destructible Objectives fit well, just make them Characters or have some other semi-immunity to shooting. Maybe they take reduced damage from range so the forgotten melee armies can get something done. If you want to get super crazy the Secondary Objectives can be secret. Maybe in EVERY game there's destructible Objectives but your opponent won't always take that. Now you can bluff which seems very accurate to a real conflict. Not that we need literal realism in a space war game but some tactical realism would be nice. Why do I know EXACTLY what my opponent wants to do?
While it seems like I have a lot of complaints, these aren't necessarily directed at the ITC Missions. Warhammer has always had weak Scenarios and been more of a chuck dice game, which I think is to its detriment. I fully recognize and encourage the need for simple and fast Scenarios, the ones GW put out with 8th are great for this. But there also needs to be complex and deep Scenarios for tournament play and that is what I do not see. We're inching forward, slowly, as a game but it gets frustrating at times.
Right now many people groan about the spam lists which are pushing Fliers, Artillery, under-costed Screens/Psykers, and so on. Well Missions can prevent that. Those lists are powerful because the game provides no reason to take anything other than the most powerful possible units. Speed is barely a consideration, things like Deep Strike have been marginalized because their offensive power is so easily shut down. It's a real shame the game provides no reason to explore subtle rules and nuanced units. Right now it's two people smashing each other with clubs, sometimes I like to watch a good fencing match instead.