40K: The Problems With Tactical Objectives

What’s the problem with Tactical Objectives and why does everyone skip them? Let’s chat.

This all started with a simple question: Why doesn’t anyone use Tactical Objectives? I mean, I’m sure there are folks out there that use them – good for them I say…But I haven’t met anyone that prefers them or even seen folks use them in the wild. Now I’ll be the first to admit my sample size of anecdotal “anec-data” isn’t representative of everyone’s experience. But the places I’ve been to witness games taking place (ie, games in Public Game Stores or in Tournament settings) I’ve never seen anyone play with them. So again, I set out to answer the question: Why doesn’t anyone use Tactical Objectives?

It didn’t take long to find out why.

More “Headache” Then “Backrub”

Warhammer 40,000 is a pretty complex game. There are lots of things going on from basic rules, unit rules, army rules, warlord traits, relics, stratagems, psychic powers, to…well, you get the idea. And then you’ve got the Missions and the actual “game play” part of it, too. There are lots of moving parts and frankly, Tactical Objectives just sorta get in the way. They add complexity to an already complex system. And what is perhaps the best reason NOT to use them is that they are optional.

Tactical Objectives are typically relegated to Maelstrom of War missions only. That’s the section in the BRB that pretty much all players skip right by. But there are some interesting things in there about them. Did you know you know that most Maelstrom of War missions have 6 objectives placed on the board? Did you know that most of the Maelstrom of War Missions have you draw multiple cards that both players can attempt to score? Did you ALSO know you can spend 2 CP to discard a card and draw a new Tactical Objective? Or that the active player can discard a Tactical Objective at the end of there turn and draw a new one?

So many ways to cycle through the deck – SO MANY!

I didn’t. Because I never really bothered to look at those options in 8th. But even though I know those things now, I still don’t want to play with the Tactical Objectives because it’s just more book-keeping to track in an already complex game. As streamlined as 8th is, I still forget to do things sometimes. Turns out I’m only human – shocking I know. But it really boils down to the fact that I still find them more of a chore than fun and this is supposed to be a game that people play for entertainment. That’s strike one.

Sorry, Your Objective Is In Another Castle

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from folks is that “there are certain cards that I just can’t score – so I’ll pass on using those.” I get that aspect of them but at the same time I can’t help but think “isn’t that the point?” They really are a double edged sword for BOTH players. Even with all the ways to cycle through the decks or objectives this is still a fear many players have. It’s not totally unfounded, but I think it’s probably exaggerated just a tad. However the effect of the Tactical Objectives is net-negative for the game experience which is another reason people pass.

T’au Player: “Successfully cast a Psychic Power this turn. Whelp, that sucks.”

Think about it – if your opponent suggest “we add something to the game that has a chance to hinder your army and possibly force you to lose,” would you want to use it? Maybe you want a challenge so you go for it. But it doesn’t just hurt your army, it also slows the game down, and changes up the dynamics of the game to a degree that you just have a hard time enjoying the game. That’s how a lot of folks view Tactical Objectives.

Not even getting a chance to score the objectives, however small, is a major problem people have with the Tactical Objectives. They don’t like their player choice getting removed by having objectives that are literally impossible to score. “Well just remove all the impossible to score objectives and keep going.” But the problem is they might be achievable one turn and then impossible on the next depending on how the game goes. “Isn’t that the point?” I think it is…and that IS the problem.

Random =/= Fun

The random turn-by-turn nature of the Tactical Objectives goes against the “Grand Strategy” nature of the game. They can change every turn and can totally throw off your entire game plan. Many of the Maelstrom of War missions are solely based on total VPs by the end of the game and if you aren’t scoring them, you are flat out losing the game. “But they represent the chaos of battle!” I get that. But there is still a logic to the overall battle plan – it’s doesn’t boil down to the “luck of the draw” which is exactly what the Tactical Objectives do.

Basically, the Tactical Objectives relegate your game plan to “follow the laser pointer” like a cat. Run from point to point, objective to objective, and HOPE you score it. Your army can end up running around in circles and playing itself. This removes a lot of the actual tactical decisions you make during the game and changes the dynamic from “skillful play and positioning” to “dumb-luck.” The game already relies on random dice rolls – it shouldn’t rely on random win conditions that change every turn. Folks used to say 40k was like Checkers – well if that’s true, then Tactical Objectives are the equivalent of a scratch-off lotto ticket.

Tactical Objectives – For the Brave and the Bold?

At the end of the day, 40k is still a game and folks should play how they want. If you enjoy Tactical Objectives, more power to you! For the rest of us they just slow the game down and change the dynamic to “whack-a-mole” instead of a tabletop war game. They are too heavily weighted towards Luck and are an optional set of missions that are easy to ignore. Are there solutions and ways to make the Tactical Objectives actually useful? I think so. I don’t think they are entirely without merit – but I think they need to get redesigned from the ground up. Which also means the Maelstrom of War missions would have to be looked at as well.

Sorry Tactical Objectives, I think you’re going to keep getting passed on in 8th editions. Better luck next time.


How do you feel about Tactical Objectives. Do you use them “by the book” or do you have some special house rules? Let us know in the comments below!

  • orionburn III

    lol…k. Everybody in my group uses them and always has. We’ve had a long standing house rule that if an objective is impossible (i.e. Tau & pyschic powers) then you discard and draw a new one. It’s pretty sad if this is too difficult a task to do in a game. The entire point of having all these missions and play styles is to add variety to the game and to keep it from getting stale. Don’t want to use objective cards every game? Then don’t use them. Quit telling the rest of us what to do and not do because you don’t like it yourself. The articles this week have been a dumpster fire.

    • EmperorOfMankind

      I love em. The only reason why don’t use them now is because I am not used to 8 ed yet. I feel like they even up the game sometimes.

      • Zingbaby

        Same here, in the very beginning we didn’t bother as we learned the rules, but we’ve been using them, and the new codex army decks are actually really good.

    • Dragon2928

      Agree completely. Typically when this post cycles back around, its because the player is stuck in the tournament mindset of “I’ll have more guys alive at the end of the game than the other guy, on more objectives, and win”. You have to build a flexible army for Maestrom, and that’s hard for some folks to grasp.

    • tylran

      Playing with hidden objectives can be great fun as well. 🙂 There’s a ton of variation to be had. We once modified the rules so that all cards that relate to holding or capturing or defending objectives were discarded. We had a really weird but fun game, where Warlords tried to lynch each other and we were casting the weakest psychic powers we could in order to succeed in many as possible. 😀

    • Fredddy

      Same here.

  • Joel Eddy

    Completely disagree. Maelstrom is my preferred way to play, even over ITC. One simple house rule of discarding cards that are 100% impossible fixes your first issue. If you have to kill a Flying Unit and your opponent doesn’t have one in their list, we just discard and draw immediately. This rarely happens though, and frankly it’s a no-brainer.

    The other thing glossed over is you typically have a hand of cards, not just one, so there’s real decision behind this. Sure, sometimes there are obvious decisions. Maybe you get an objective to control Objective 6 and it’s clearly behind enemy lines, but you’ll likely have a couple of more that you can pick from. It’s not as random as described.

    You can also build your list better for this style of play and to deal with the shifting objectives. And, I find the shifting objectives more thematic… receiving calls from HQ about changes in priority on the field of battle and what not. It’s more realistic to me anyway.

    Its 1000x more fun to me than playing against kit spam lists.

  • piglette

    I highly disagree with this article. Tactical objectives force players to adapt and change their playstyle from turn to turn. It forces you to take weigh risks of scoring points with units you may not want out in the open. It allows for scoring each turn which gives the game a feel of give and take. As for cards you can score, many people play that if you draw a card that doesn’t apply to you, eg “destroy a fortification” you just discard it and draw anew.

  • MVBrandt

    Maelstrom missions are effectively not strategy game missions. Instead of presenting a series of mission or mission selections to which your army can be deployed and played toward, the game randomly tells you to go do things during play as quickly and efficiently as you can. It is much more similar to MMORPG NPC play, where you go to one quest giver, who tells you to immediately collect 10 pelts and then go to another quest giver, and where you feel compelled to do these things not in an efficient or tactical way (since you don’t know what they’ll be until they’re due), but as quickly as possible.

    The shallow logic is “a true tactician is ready for anything!” but as someone who appreciates the aesthetic of a game, it can be extremely difficult to get behind my recon team being given random destroy-a-vehicle missions or the like.

    In a game where random is the watchword of the day as it is, Maelstrom takes yet another element of control and gameplay out of the hobbyist’s hands and throws it into the hands of the game itself. For me, and for a lot of people I interact with and receive feedback from, this boils down to something that isn’t very enjoyable or engaging.

    A good hybrid would be something more like what they’ve done with Shadespire.

    • Zingbaby

      Blah blah blah… the staunch anti-maelstrom folks just want to win at the list-building (copying net-list) phase without every having to think on the table.

      The shallow logic is your recon team doesn’t have to destroy a vehicle regardless of the card, and you can still win by other means. Maelstrom is however FAR from perfect but seriously though, “a true tactician is ready for anything!”.

      A panicky net-lister wants everything perfectly spelled out before they hobble over to the awkward social interaction at the table – nothing unexpected, nothing random, nothing that wasn’t entirely planned, nothing sporting at all.

      • MVBrandt

        That’s a lot of energy wasted on ad hominem and not much argument. Didn’t mean to hit a nerve, just sharing an opinion. Fortunately it’s all good – I don’t fit the player type you were trying to offend.

        • Zingbaby

          As am I friend, with far less energy than the post above it I’d add…

          • MVBrandt


  • Drpx

    This article is about three years late.

  • Because some people are looking for a game like chess where there is little random elements and the game patterns can be mastered. Random elements destroy that. You can’t memorize random because you have no control over them.

    Those are the people that don’t like things like random objectives.

    This style of game design appeals mostly to people that like to have to react as opposed to people that like to memorize patterns and master patterns and win via being better at memorizing patterns than their opponent.

    Whether or not those people make up the majority… who knows. I use tactical objectives… but not every time. I very much require a mixture of game modes or I drop the game because “mastering 40k” doesnt’ take very long to do and I get bored.

  • Hank

    My group only plays Maelstrom missions, and it’s a blast. As echoed by others here, a house rule to discard any card you cannot possibly complete is a good change, and the progressive scoring and random missions change the game from a simple beat-em-up, which the normal missions often suffer from.

  • Diagoras

    Yeah, but everyone in my group uses them. They keep things interesting. We actually do like the element of randomness to mix things up from game to game.

    That whole little conundrum with “cards being impossible to use” is dealt with simply- if your army will never physically be able (i.e. you didn’t bring any psykers) to score that objective, you can confer with your opponent and discard it. If it’s an objective that can physically at some point be achieved by your army, however unlikely, (i.e. tau wiping out a unit in the assault) you’re stuck with it.

    As long as your group isn’t a bunch of a**holes, this is a non-problem. This transaction usually takes about two seconds to discuss with your opponent-

    “Hey, I got the card that says I have to use a psyker. I’m running Necrons.”

    “Ok, cool. Get a new one.”

    • Mr.Gold

      if only GW worked out that some lists can’t do certain objectives and tailored their cards more, e.g. AdMech, Crons & Tau have the “Cast a Psychic Power” card removed and replaced with things that they can do instead…

  • Joel Eddy

    There’s also a few misunderstandings that I see/hear.

    1) “I have to be ready for anything”. Actually you don’t. You need to be ready to move to as many objectives as possible. You need to keep deployment zones in mind, and keep an eye on the center of the battlefield. There’s some random “kill stuff” objectives, but that’s what you’re doing anyway…. which leads me to point 2.

    2) You don’t have to try and do all the objectives ASAP. Sometimes that’s a good idea. But other times, it’s a much better play to sit on an objective and accomplish it a turn or two down the road.

    Overall, I feel like more “on field” strategy is used with these than static missions… which seem to come down to army composition.. which is fine if that’s your thing.

    • Zingbaby

      Nailed it.

  • No Body

    I think I posted this a while ago but I don’t like loosing games because I did it believe in the heart of the cards enough.


  • BrianDavion

    Ahh another BOLS article that assumes “me and my friends” reflects the 40k community on a whole

    • adamharry

      ‘Now I’ll be the first to admit my sample size of anecdotal “anec-data” isn’t representative of everyone’s experience.’

      Reading is hard.

      • Nostok

        To be fair the article could have started with a tone that would not have drawn such a comment so easily, or required you to be defensive of it.

        • adamharry

          “the article could have started with a tone that would not have drawn such a comment so easily”

          It’s literally in the first paragraph. You guys are reading into this WAAAY to hard. Or not hard enough – I never can tell.

  • Leviticus Stroud

    WRT many of the replies referring to ways they can work by ‘just doing X and/or Y’…

    That is one of the issues though isn’t it?
    We can get them to work (to a certain extent at least) with house rules. Redraw unplayables, maximum number of total VPs from them, max number of cards during a game etc.
    What we can’t do though is get them to be fair using the rules actually in the game- and that’s a problem that has carried over from the previous edition with little done to address it.

    I quite like the Tactical Objectives for the variety they give- but only when held in a tight rein.
    Locally we play house rules to keep them in check, and they work well in that way. But as soon as they go to the total free for all that so often can lead to a ‘who draws best wins’ situation, I avoid them.

    • Nostok

      Me and my friends play them without modification. The number of CPs in the game now allows you to deal with useless objectives etc. The cards work well for us.

  • BJ Mickle

    I like both. Easy way I deal with this is 1-3, Eternal War missions; 4-6, Maelstrom. Then roll for the corresponding chart. If someone doesn’t have the tactical objective cards, then I will pass on the Maelstrom, as the dice rolling for objectives kinda sucks. But it does add randomness, but not always. Some you only get a number of cards based on how many objectives you have. I find this adds a bit of randomness, yes, but sometimes it makes a game closer than it otherwise would have been. To each his own.

  • Scott Staten

    I’m, just wondering where the idea of “Grand Strtegy” comes from in 40K… As long as you are dealing with individual squads and vehicles, at best you are in a tactical; setting.

  • William Kim

    Tactical of objectives are great, and actually an important means of reducing the effectiveness of alpha strike armies.

  • Nyyppä

    How is this a problem? We used to play double missions (1 maelstrom and 1 eternal war) and never had an issue.

  • Andrew O’Brien

    Is it really rare for people to use tactical objectives? That is the only way I have ever played, except for the relic. Without them, it is to much just about killing all opponents for me. I like that you can lose in military might but win the strategic game.

  • stinkoman

    I use TOs, but with the house rule for the impossible stuff. it does suck when the advantage in the game is ruled by the luck of the draw. that is typically why we only play MoW games when we really dont care who wins. there is no strat to random cards. sometimes you are in position to take obj or be able to assassinate a character, other times, you’re just to far away. and if you’re not scoring each turn and your opponent is because of the cards, then drink a beer and eat some chips.

    I’ve been toying with another way to use them. maybe deal out x number at the start. discarding and redrawing the impossible ones. then during the game, you have all 5 turns to try and score them. then it’s a a little more tactical as you know what you need to build your strategy around. use kill points as a tie breaker.

    Malifaux does something similar. you have the main mission and then two secret objectives that you draw at the beginning from a selection. each player has a duplicate pool and they both separately pick the two they want to go for. the score is decided between the main mission and the two strategies you went for. the game becomes more about strategy than just killing the opponent.

    • Holger Wurst

      Good idea!

  • Massawyrm

    The biggest disconnect that players have with Tactical Objectives is that they assume EW and MoW missions are extensions of one another rather than separate modes of play. An army built for EW most likely won’t fare well in an MoW environment, while many armies that are typically considered under powered in the ITC meta will excel at rapid objective grabbing. You’re supposed to BUILD for MoW missions, not just end up playing one with your tournament geared gimmick list.

    • adamharry

      Yep. That really is one of the biggest problems. It’s BECAUSE MoW is “optional” and folks don’t exercise the option to play that way.

      I totally agree that if you want to play MoW you need to build an army that can play in an MoW environment. I think people WOULD have to build more balanced lists overall and not the one-trick pony lists.

      If MoW weren’t optional, you’d see a very different Meta.

  • silashand

    Though I like the concept, we have taken to calling them the “Chase the Shiny” rules. Running all over the board to grab the latest and greatest objective hardly seems like an appropriate tactical strategy by any stretch of the imagination. It certainly does not add to the immersive element of the game either. JMO though…

  • Frank O’Donnell

    In our club & I would guess from reading the comments in a lot of others people are using tactical objective cards so not sure where you getting your information from.

  • Spacefrisian

    40k complex? Lolz 8 pages of rules and lots of similar special rules with different names is hardly complex, a bunch of cards with crystal clear text doesn’t make it harder. Unless the writer wants to tell us that he doesn’t know the game very well.

    • Tyr

      “Lots of similar special rules”. Because similarity means things are soooo much easier, rather than more confusing… I mean, its obvious that Termagants get rerolls to wound above 20 models. Or was it rerolls to hit? What did hormagaunts do again?

      As to crystal clear rules… dont make me laugh.

  • Jacob Hewitt

    omg they get in the way of using your cookie cutter army list and copy paste tactics from the interwebs by adding something dynamic and tactical, the horror.

  • Sergei Lamkov

    Never play TO as the whole concept is rubbish. Commanders do not know what they are fighting for?
    We usually try to go old FW way, 3 objectives which you HAVE to control every turn.

  • Steven Barnes

    Love em to death. Keeps the game from getting stale. And I’m sorry, but saying “I forget to use em” as an argument is lazy/sad. This really isn’t a complex game, and the cards shouldn’t be docked because you can’t remember a simple step.

  • Boonkij Vacharawong

    I hate when first player pick the area denial on the first turn and automatic score D3 VP

  • Nathaniel Wright

    Yeahhh, I think this is a case study in one meta does not equal the world’s. People do play with Tactical Objectives, almost to the point of doing Maelstrom of War Missions exclusively.

  • 2Sexy4HisShirt

    I am sorry, I am reading so much BS here! It’s like some people here never ever played the game or at least never tried tactical oobjectives. “Strategic thinking, no planing ahead… ” bla bla

    The metaphor of a cat following the laser pointer simply does not fit. Usually you have a set of objectives and only one small part of the set is usually changed per turn, so that the objective you want to reach doesnt change every turn. And even if…. its not like you can jump around the table as you want you have to plan when to reach what objective.

    So concerning strategic thinking…. i am not even going into the challenge of list building when playing tactical objectives.

    First of all, the strategic part starts when placing the tactical objectives… where does my army gain an advantage? Which placement of the objectives favors my oponent?

    Next steps are planing how you field your army so that you can reach miost objectives in case you pull them from the stack. If I can reach it, will I ever be able to contest it?

    Once you have your mission cards you have to start thinking… will I ever be able to fullfill the objectives, if yes which turns and what order… etc. Etc. Then you also have to consider which objectives your oponent will me going for…

    Sorry, I can understand if somebody does not like the random component of tactical objectives. But believe me, IMHO playing then demands much more farsight…

  • Ronin

    I’ve started leaning towards them as a middle finger to gunline armies. I see a Guard player, I do a persuasion check to run Tactical Objectives, it works, and gives my poor Grey Knights an actual chance.

  • Matthew Pomeroy

    Never found them worth using, not a fan.

  • Holger Wurst

    The most funny part of articles like this at the moment is when the same people aka “tourney vets” cry about the predictabillity of momentary competitive games after the first turn alpha strike (game over whether the AS works out or not) and then cry the same about the only official solution given without strong house rules because it is allegedly not ‘tactical’ or ‘strategic’ enough. With the introduction of TOs we in our club have been playing exclusively MoW. The gruesome history of terribly bland and boring tournament lists of waac powergamers sucking the life out of this game are proof enough that our decision was right. Want a non random game you can precalculate over multiple turns – play chess.
    But don’t try to take away tactical depth from this kind of 40k just because you seemingly can’t get a grip on how to play it correctly. What is tactical about determining who gets shot to pieces by netlists first?
    Win a game with pure GK vs Eldar with 1 VP in front and only one Marine left at turn 7 after being heavily alpha strike’d turn 1? Not with itc or whatever pseudo-‘balanced’-competitive ruleset…

  • Marco Marantz

    I found that TOs can give one side a chance where they had no chance in a standard mission. This is not necessarily typical especially in a tournament environment where TOs can be ignored and the focus is just on choosing the most efficient list and blowing your opponent away as quickly as possible. My gaming ground adopted played VPs as the indicator of victory, even if you were tabled, so it was not an incentive – you had to actually concentrate on racking up VPs. Also TOs can be faction dependent….its suicide to spread yourself and forward on the table when playing against say, nids. You basically have to ignore objective points until you’ve done enough damage to them in which time the other side can rack up an unassailable lead.

  • nordsturmking

    I prefer not to play with TO. There is already enough randomness in the game. I had a few games were just won or lost cuz of lucky or unlucky card draws.

  • Crablezworth

    One day you guys will master the whole then than thing…

  • tylran

    I think the game is more fun with tactical objectives. It kinda evens out the game in some instances. The main thing for me is that it’s rewarding to cash in those points, every game is different and it adds a new layer to the game. You need to house rule the Tactical objectives a bit, for example T’au not having psykers, so no “cast x psychic powers”-objectives. The army-specific objectives especially can be great fun, since completing them is often easier AND it feels kinda cool and, dare is say it, fluffy, to have your army mount a counter-offensive. I literally won a game by having almost every unit in my army just abandoning their hidey-holes and charging the enemy. The losses were heavy, but victory is what matters.

    I honestly recommend everybody to at least test them out. My tip is that you’re gonna need a list that is not based on gimmicks. My friend has never won a game with his proxy-assassin list, simply because he can’t hold objectives. I was watching a game where my buddy’s opponent was actually able to score Domination objective. That was funny. Now that little cheese-monger friend of mine plays actually cool and fun lists for once.

    • tylran

      I need to test out the Open War cards as well. I’ve heard that they’re great fun, although I heard that people have been house ruling the use of Ruse cards so that you only get them if the difference in Power Level is like 5-10+.