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40K: The Problems With Tactical Objectives

5 Minute Read
Dec 15 2017

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!

Author: Adam Harrison
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