Goatboy’s 40k: Tourney Missions May be Hurting the Game

Goatboy here.  Today I want to talk about how over-complicated missions are becoming a problem in competitive gaming.

Back In the Day…

Goatboy here again and today I want to talk about how the over complication of missions has started to become kind of a pain in the competitive scene.  Initially during the “glory” days of 4th and 5th edition the mission was a simple framework to just beat the crap out of your opponent.  Sure you might have to get a point on the battle field but the game was really just you killing as many points of your opponents army as you could.  Some people got cute with some missions parameters but the current crop of choice, objectives, and book keeping nature was not something you saw.  Now I am not saying this is the best way – just more so looking at it from the current score sheet/choice dominated competitive scene.

Time to fill out the mission sheet…

I Want to Play – Not Book-keep

This leads me into thinking that in some ways, simplifying the mission parameters might be something we need to help curtail these 3 turn games where nothing happens other then a few checks on a score sheet.  I look at AoS missions who have a more winner take all mentality with randomly created objectives, changes to how ones scores the objective, and other simpler missions.  I know in a lot of ways when you have one specific job to do during a game – the game seems to go a lot quicker.  Of course this whole all or nothing in a mission can be an issue when trying to create some kind of Balance between the armies.

You know and I know that not every army is the same.  Some things work better then others – and that is the nature of a big sprawling game full of different armies, play styles, and aesthetics.  This is part of the reason to have these complicated missions as allows other armies to work better.  If the game was just “kill, kill, kill” then the correct choice would be smaller armies with hard to kill units that can kill things easy.  If the game was 6+ objectives then fast, MSU style armies would be the best thing to have as they don’t care about killing and only just want to hold all the goodies at the end of the game.  There is the crux of the tournament organizer – how to let every army work, have a chance to win, and give the player a decent game.

But this always leads to more complications a lot of the time and thus the slower games that seem to frustrate the “more seasoned” players that can deduce their choices that allow them a chance to win.  I know a lot of the time if I get to turn 3, maelstrom/secondary/etc missions are not within my grasp I stop, drop, and get to moving on the primary options.  These extra things to check during a game becomes hard as you are still trying to keep up with your army, your opponents army, and if someone’s points are messed up in their list.

Back to Basics

The question then comes do I want to go back to the simpler time of things with one mission, usually something easy, and just smash it out till we get a winner?  No because while I think things are complicated I do know they will be easier to play later on as I get used to them.  I also know a lot of these missions are designed with simplicity at the top (hold objectives) mixed with the same sort of secondaries we will get used to picking when we see the opponents type of army.  My biggest complaint is that in a lot of ways the missions will start to become the same as armies become more locked in and your choices for secondaries become the same game after game when you know what type of list your opponent brings to the table top.

I got to play one of the Open War missions the other day on the BoLS Twitch stream and I found the refreshing nature of just doing the one mission was a welcoming thing.  Sure I knew the objective was gonna not be with me (can’t roll no dang 6’s) but it also meant my decisions were limited to – go there, remove all the objective secured jerks there, steal underpants, and profit.  It was relaxing and made the game much easier to play through, work out, and complete in 2 hours while shooting the crap with my opponent Steve.  Of course also giving crap to Roboute but hey there is another article about that.  I don’t think we need to have all our missions be as simple as one objective that gets found each turn, roll a dice, and if you get lucky its the real one.  I just think we could get away with 2 simple missions per game in order make it easy to figure out, easy to play, and hopefully get the game ended in a decent time.

Is Open War the Future?

I have spent a lot of time with the Open War cards as I hear GW is pushing them for their own tournaments.  Of course the thought is they pick a few cards for each mission, show it before hand, and thus keep a random nature of the event but still have games you can plan for, figure out, and hopefully do well in.  Is this the future they are going to push in the Chapter Approved book?  You know there will be a matched play update with some rules changes and I am sure a reworked mission structure.  I think my real question right now is – is it worth it to add layers of complexity to the mission format that does give some more broader ranges of workable armies – but at the threat of alienating new players?  It’s a hard question as while I am more concerned with competitive play the majority of 40k dice throwers could give a Skaven’s behind on how effective x unit versus y’s tournament missions are.

Question to you guys:

Do you like the more complicated scoring missions?  

Do you think this is the cause of a lot of players slowness?  

Do you think a happy medium is capable with simple sets of mission parameters that benefit all types of armies?  

~Is this all a pipe dream and I should just go back to painting my Death Guard?  Are you hoping the next set of books are Wolves Versus Thousand Sons?

  • Andrew Marshall

    LeaRn WheN to CapiTalize LeTters

    • Wampasaurus

      There is only a single instance of improper capitalization and that was in the third paragraph of the article, ” some kind of Balance between the armies”, and that’s it.I proofread it twice just to be sure. Perhaps this is a bit of an overreaction on your part?

    • euansmith

      Are you trying to capitalize on his mistake? 😉

    • Korean Kodiak

      The bigger issue is does he know what a comma is and how to use it?

  • marlowc

    For me, the missions are way too much. The acid test of a solid game is that it should play well as a pitched battle first and foremost.
    After everyone has got a bit bored of playing the same knock-down, drag-out fight, with the same armies, then you start trying out a few new missions/scenarios.
    I play Orks, and completely ignore all this nonsense of objectives, and missions. Da boyz can just about handle “get ’em”, anything more, is too much for their limited brains. And standing around some arbitrary spot on the battlefield in order to get “points”, when “dere is humies to kill”, is out of the question.
    Of course this only works in our friendly games 🙂

  • Drpx

    It’s kind of a moot point when one army always tables the other by turn four though.

    • ILikeToColourRed

      thats optimistic, turn 2 surely

    • marlowc

      That’s a balance/game mechanics issue though isn’t it? Trying to camouflage a fundamentally unbalanced game with complex, arbitrary missions/objectives/scenarios is what is going on here I reckon.

      • Richard Mitchell

        It really boils down to fundamentals. In games like Warmachine, Infinity, Malifaux and Dark Age, the scenario is the balance. That is how those games are built so if you remove the scenario, you actually remove a fundamental mechanic to the game and this is why those systems work on scenarios every year.

        With 40k are the rules built around scenarios? Or could you play without scenarios and all things being even could you still have a fairly balanced game? If so then that might be why have too many or overly complicated objectives doesn’t work. Shoe-horning primary and secondary scenarios into a game not fundamentally built around that concept is the same as playing Warmachine, Infinity, Malifaux, and Dark Age without scenarios or objectives.

      • Puppet Soul

        Not exactly.

        If the objective is simple, and does not punish effectively tabling the opponent on the first turn, then the game devolves into who can put the most effective dakka into the fewest drops and go first.

        I have played too many games which have ended before the first turn started: didn’t go first? failed the seize roll? Concede.

  • Simon Chatterley

    See the thing is I still (naively I guess) want this to be about more than just blasting my opponent off the board.

    I want that Saving Private Ryan moment where I hold the bridge* (read “objective”) for just long enough.

    That epic ambush that bought me time to do it or repel an enemy advance.

    It’s a wargame after all and when you have cool looking terrain and cool painted armies why shouldn’t we be able to have a cool game that isn’t just “I killed you all in turn 2, thanks”?

    But that aside you were right to troll BBF and his Rowboat. The fact that he went out of his to attack anyone who agreed that he is under pointed and over powered tells me I’d never want to play him.

    • marlowc

      I don’t think 40K can ever really give those dramatic wargame type moments do you? The models are too big for a 6 x 4 table.
      You need to go to something like Flames of War to get anything close to a “wargame” .
      Don’t get me wrong though, I much prefer the – don’t take this seriously, dice fest that is 40K 🙂

      • Simon Chatterley

        No I think the scale is reasonable to get that sort of moment in a game. I’m not talking about the full scale war that epic scale gives. I want that closer to the action feel that a war film gives. Most of the iconic scenes I have in my head would be achievable on a 6 by 4 in 28mm scale.

        But the game needs to allow them and presently it doesn’t.

        I still like AoS and not losing when tabled. That really does push you to heroically sacrifice a unit to achieve an objective. No victory feels quite as sweet as winning when you have no army left 🙂

        • ZeeLobby

          Imbalance does make this tough. Playing 250 pts down to simulate a last stand can feel like very much like playing equal armies or drastically overwhelmed depending on the faction. It’d be nice if points could be used to do things like this, but they really have to get more comfortable altering points throughout the year.

        • marlowc

          I see what you mean, but the large models, or strictly speaking the long weapon ranges, don’t allow for much in the way of manoeuvre on a 6 x 4 do they.
          Without manoeuvring, its hard to see how you can have anything but blatantly “set up” dramatic moments.

          • euansmith

            I think that having themed bits of terrain can add a lot of atmosphere even to the claustrophobic space of a 40k table.

            If a ruin containing an objective is “a shrine to St Meltor the Pyrophile”, then a fight over it between a couple of units can have a suitably cinematic feel; one which is lacking if it is just “objective A in that ruin”.

            But I definitely agree that there is barely space to move, let alone maneuver on a 6″x4″ table. Also terrain effects in 8th don’t seem to be designed to help.

          • Koonitz

            Adjust terrain to taste. I find making a more claustrophobic board helps. I also prefer to say buidlings block line of sight, regardless of windows, unless infantry are in base contact with the windowed wall, where-upon they can see and be seen (sort of like a barricade).

            This way, all those wide open buildings that do nothing for blocking line of sight (or providing cover, ’cause you’re not in the building, despite the missile threading a needle through two angled windows), still block.

            This can force you to suddenly have to maneuver your three leman russ tanks that would otherwise have free reign on planet bowling ball. It also gives you room to hide.

            I did this and played against a Tyranid player that managed to hide his genestealers and patriarch for two whole turns before getting a full strength charge off where, otherwise, I’d have shot them off the board in those two turns with ease.

            Set up your story the way you want. If you want to do “hold the bridge against overwhelming forces”, then let the opponent bring back all troop units that are destroyed (and, to avoid manipulating the game, allow him to remove units reduced to 25% or below so you don’t leave them alive to prevent this). This encourages the opponent to overwhelm you with cheap troops (the ones that WOULD have the numbers to overwhelm), instead of just taking the big guns and trying to blast you off the board in turn 2 like most tournaments.

            Want to add a bit of interesting flair? Say you’re behind enemy lines and need time to set up charges to destroy the bridge. Now the enemy can split his forces and attack you from both sides, with the bridge in the center. Even if you have a single wounded infantryman alive at the end of the game, he can trigger the detonator and go up in a blaze of glory.

          • euansmith

            I’m all for lots of LoS Blocking Terrain to give the tabletop some shape, with angles of advance and lines of fire and choke points. I wasn’t clear when I said, “the claustrophobic space of a 40k table.” I was actually trying to reference the way that there can be too many units on a table top to leave space to allow maneuvering.

          • Koonitz

            Oh, yeah, no, that’s fair. Especially with hordes being so popular now-a-days.

            Maybe a return to the classic 8’x4′ board (that I learned on back in 3rd Ed), or just pushing for bigger games with bigger boards (sure, sure, time and all that, but in the end….).

            Consider your problems and look for proactive solutions! Work with your gaming group. That’s what I like about the narrative gaming style GW introduced. You can do whatever you want to build a game and a story that you will find enjoyable.

      • When we go “war game mode” we usually use a larger table. My group likes to play 30/40K at about 10,000 points or more.
        I like missions. It makes it a bit more of a game, seems to me. But like a game in the middle of a war. I haven’t wanted a lat man standing in 3 editions…. But they were fun, just to see what would happen.

        • marlowc

          Wow – I’m certainly envying you here! There’s no way my group can realistically stage games like that 🙁

          • We’ve all been playing for years and years so we have lots and lots. lol.
            we don’t get to play as much as we used to sadly. Gotta go large!

      • Severius_Tolluck

        Even then, it is a car park…. A Lovely Target Rich Car Park… mmmm Artillery….

      • Drpx

        I thought Fantasy did a good job of it. 40k it was generally always assumed you were fighting an encounter in the midst of some larger conflict.

    • Drpx

      Real battles rarely end in total massacres anyway. Usually one side breaks and retreats first which happened a lot in fantasy, but GW decided nobody played or wanted that.

  • Karru

    There is a good reason why I would have liked to see AoS style missions make their way to 40k. The fact that objectives are always relevant lead to the game being a struggle through the whole game while still not being completely based on luck with cards or such. Basically even if you get completely destroyed with only a few units left standing by turn 4, you could still pull a victory if your opponent ignored the objectives in favour of just coming at you.

    That has always been the problem of 40k in my mind. There is almost no reason to go for the objectives in standard missions because they only matter after the game ends, so if you reduce your opponent to 1-2 units, there is nothing they can do any more to win because they just can’t get to enough objectives in time.

    • Muninwing

      cards… are just not what they could be.

      i’d rather see one card chosen that had a major objective, and one that had a minor objective. and those being the focus, not “get this objective this round, then do something else next round on the opposite side of the board). it’s just not relevant for anything but a gaming feel to the game, as opposed to the cinematic feel they keep talking about.

      I’d love to see every army having one objective that they could choose and keep secret until the end (from a list, so everyone knows what’s possible), and one public one that they draw when they show up to the mission. in addition, have there be a central mission that scores points.

      so…
      – slay, linebreaker, and firstblood each one point
      – personal secret mission worth 4 if achieved
      – public chosen mission worth 5 if achieved
      – either player can get 2 points by achieving a different goal.

      thus…

      – i choose “destroy the witch” for mission 2, and get 4 points if i kill over half my opponent’s psykers… but i keep that secret, helping me to maneuver my units into sacrifice positions to take out their librarians.
      – the table’s rule is that the team holding the objective in the center for the longest (with “last” breaking the tie) scores 2 points, so as i’m maneuvering i try to get into position to hold the center.
      – at the start of the game, i choose from the deck and pick “sabotage” — getting 5 points of i can eliminate all my opponent’s heavy support choices, or vehicles if they have none. That’s open and known, so that will change how my opponent plays against me.

      then we add up points at the end, easy pease,

  • ZeeLobby

    Honestly one of the issues I have with WMH as well. The game is balanced around scenario, but can be completely imbalanced when two lists simply face off. I know it’s probably hard to balance for both, but I currently feel like the result has been skewed if we line up to just battle it out.

  • Frank O’Donnell

    I like the open war cards but would tournament players he happy going to a tournament not knowing what the missions are going to be ?

    I don’t think the missions are slowing down the game tbh I think for all GW said about the game been faster it not, as it’s still filled with rerolls & with the amount of stratagems some of the armies can now pick from across different books I don’t see it getting any faster, some players are fast players & some are slow but most just play at certain pace & at 2K pts 2 hours is not long enough to finish the game in a lot of cases.

    • Magnus

      Imo there is merit to not knowing the missions. That way you have to build a list which can take on any scenario, not just the 3-5 ones specified.
      Same goes for deployment maps etc.

  • In my experience, things liike Open War cards are things that I enjoy tremendously, and make tournament players rage… at least in a tournament setting. The more random elements you introduce into a tournament setting, the more rage will flow.

    I also personally think that the simplicity in 40k and AOS has gotten to absurd levels and that SOME kind of complexity needs to exist. The games right now are when you boil them down chucking shovel fulls of dice at each other.

    • ZeeLobby

      Yeah. I can totally get that though. Tournament playing is about reducing risk more than anything else. The more random elements thrown at a player throughout an event, the more likely randomness beats them and not their opponent.

      • Indeed you are right. (one of my issues with tournament play lol because I like replayability and testing how you react to unforseen things)

        • ZeeLobby

          Honestly one of the reasons our group has really gotten into dungeon crawls lately (gloomhaven, descent, etc.). Randomness always seems more fun, even for competitive people, when your a team working against an enemy. When it’s random and you have a single opponent it favors, you feel cheated. Of course games with randomness balanced it are always great too. I’ve found that even giving a players a choice between 2 random outcomes makes them feel like they were involved.

          • I think a lot of that is because if you fail as a team, everyone shares the experience of failure, but if you fail against another person, you feel inferior to that person regardless of how you failed (random, you made a mistake, whatever)

          • ZeeLobby

            Yeah, sharing the blame makes it a lot easier, haha. I don’t know how you translate that to a 1v1 tabletop game though… Not without making it a team event, or possibly giving asymmetric objectives.

  • Fergie0044

    I like the missions that make objectives relevant mid-game rather than just something to be rushed to on the last turn.
    Although I haven’t done any maelstrom missions in 8th yet as we’ve being keeping things simple while we learn the new rules. So I’ve little experience to draw on.

  • I_am_Alpharius

    For tournament play the I think the Open War Cards are potentially a great asset – particularly in really finding out the quality tournament players of 40K. If you don’t know the missions and objectives going into a event you can’t simply plan a list to be optimised for them. You need to design a far more balance list capable of achieving a huge variety of objects you could face.

  • David Pitre

    The format is wrong. Every scenario is balanced against itself, rather than balancing a group of games as a set. Here is an example:

    If I have a 3 game tournament, then there would be 3 distinct scenarios. The balance of which would measure an armies design and it’s general’s tactics:

    Game 1: Simple kill/pl points for destroying units.
    Game 2: 2 objectives (one in each deployment zone) controlling both objectives at the end of your opponents turn constitutes a win.
    Game 3: Capture objectives (3-5) for points at the beginning of each of your turns.

    I would keep slay the warlord and being in your enemies deployment zone, and ditch first blood.

    This is just off the cuff, but my point is….. a tournament scenario set should be balanced, not each scenario. This might change how armies are paired against each other, or even how they might be scored. I think it would be better than the mish-mash scenarios they currently provide.

    • Primarch Vulkan

      Agreed! Some tournaments do this. Though it is hard to find Kill point missions these days.

      • Muninwing

        kill points balance out MSU armies, so that’s less of a threat right now.

        what kind of mission could balance out horde armies?

        • fenrisful2

          1 kill point for every 10 models you kill?

          • Muninwing

            that… would work.

            it’s interesting, but that alone being part of some of the missions, or a potential gameplay modifier, would work.

            more and more, i’m thinking that missions are the savior to game balance that GW will not allow points to be. if there was a system where you got access to even one way to choose what scored you points, it would be far more interesting. elite armies could stand toe to toe with hordes and play a fun game, and vice versa.

          • Magnus

            Or just use Power Levels killed as your Kill Points?
            Still benefit hordes though, since they might have 1 or two models left… so might need some math at the end of the game.

  • I don’t know what the ITC is up to now, not really a fan, our club is using the GW GT packet. ever game is rolled out of the book by the TO for each round. I think there’s a link on one of the GW sites to that packet. I kinda like that idea. Just playing 40K regularly should be acquitted tournament prep.

  • Primarch Vulkan

    I agree with this idea to a degree. The missions do need to be simplified a bit more and god yes less book keeping. But players still need to be able to choose objectives which better suit their mission. And for the love of god please drop The Relic missions.

    • Primarch Vulkan

      And to add. I don’t like Maelstrom type randomness for tournaments. There is enough randomness in the game that it sort of defeats the purpose of a competitive competition.

  • oh, magoo…

    I like the ITC missions. I don’t see a few seconds of arithmetic while your opponent readies their turn to really matter that much.

  • nope none

    Honest truth here – mission complexity really only matters if you have enough terrain to support “play to the mission” game play.

    Tried maelstrom, for the first time last week with a lot of terrain and it was a much better game than just doing eternal war.

    Line of sight blocking is critical to playing complex missions.

  • SacTownBrian

    1)No
    2)No, I see slowness coming from one of two places: strength of horde meta and people not knowing the rules.
    3)No, missions benefit specific builds. While some factions may have stronger builds (e.g. speed, artillery, turtling, etc.) just about every faction can build an army for a purpose. The issue is the imbalance as a result of different degrees of efficiency. A mission that pushes a specific build to be competitive will always favor the faction that can field that build most efficiently.

  • Dusty

    I love, love, love the open war mission cards.

    For me, in the ITC tournaments I’ve played in, the book keeping during the tourney tends to be a bit of a distraction. I know the combination of maelstrom and eternal war helps even the playing field for most armies, and the current format is fairly speedy, but I’d rather just pick a single objective/mission for that fight and not worry about both randomly changing objectives from turn to turn for both my opponent and myself.

  • Chad Underdonk

    Anyone who wants to see what missions could be should look at how Flames of War does it. Each Mission is unique, has definite goals (you must capture an objective or break your opponents army), and the variety of them tend to prevent favoritism towards one type of army or another. They certainly are not a direct port over from FOW as the mechanics of missions and winning games are considerably different. But those missions are classic military maneuvers, are timeless, and would apply on any battlefield.

    https://www.flamesofwar.com/Portals/0/Documents/MoreMissions2017/FOWMoreMissions.pdf

  • Magnus

    I like Maelstrom missions, but I feel they added to much “nuance” to them in 8th. Heck a simple “3 cards each turn, go” is very simple.

    I do like the open play missions in the rulebook too though, and the cards. So either is fine with me.