One veteran gamer makes a case that 40K’s latest 2019 Chapter Approved Missions prove that 8th edition is all grown up and can move past the ITC Missions.
A guest editorial by Dan.
The Early Days
During the craziness of 7th edition, and the relatively rough start that encapsulated the early days of 8th, a very strong case could be made for a custom mission pack that created a sense of order in the chaos that was 40k. There is no doubt that the ITC missions were a good addition and a positive force in the game when 8th edition dropped.
This is no longer the case, I’m afraid to say. I am also surprised that huge parts of the community are woefully ignorant of the fact that the Chapter Approved Eternal War missions in the 2019 book are not only well balanced and designed to reward list variety, but are also far more varied and fun than what the ITC mission pack offers by comparison.
It should be noted that this is not a criticism of the ITC tournament organization. The tracking, cumulative scores, hobby tracks, app support, etc, etc are all absolutely fantastic and should be applauded from all sides of the community.
Where We Are Today
That being said, let’s move on to the argument: The ITC mission pack is effectively one single mission with some variations. In addition to this, it promotes spam lists, static gun-lines and narrows the unit variety of factions. When you have a system of play where players can choose what to score, it creates an environment where you spam units that make it easy to achieve the objectives you want. In ITC you can literally win games without moving. Kill More, Hold More – a classic staple of gun line lists. Or how about you spam flyers and chose to focus on table quarters and behind enemy lines?
Factions like Tau suffer in a way that reduces the unit variety. Kroot can be a good screening unit but you give up Double Victory points when your opponent chooses to score “Ripper” making them un-viable. Same with units like Piranhas – the VP they give away punishes you for taking them. As a result, every ITC Tau list is the same, and ironically the standard ITC Tau list cannot perform well in CA missions due to how static and defensive it is. Things will die in games of 40k anyway, let’s not make it a focus of objectives in every mission on top of that.
Compare and Contrast
Look at the recent tournament at GW. The lists and faction variety were far greater, and looking at the top 30 the meta looks far, far healthier than what ITC events create the impression of. To put it bluntly, if you have a list that doesn’t move you will typically lose 5/6 Chapter Approved missions. They reward a variety of lists – you need to bring a healthy amount of troops, fast-moving units, objective scorers, characters, etc, etc in order to score the varied mission objectives.
Lack of large volumes data means we cannot categorically prove that the CA mission pack is strictly more balanced but this falls on the community to change this – we need to use the missions in large events so the data can be collected. The multiple GW events alongside the Caledonian Open, in which many top players who also frequent ITC events attended certainly do show a more varied table of top 8 contestants. Keep in mind that balance is only one of the arguments presented here. The latest CA mission pack certainly does not promote spam/gun lines as much as the ITC missions do, that is a fact. It’s also far more fun and varied than the single ITC mission with minor changes from game to game that has become the staple of so many people’s gaming experience.
The Meta: A Question of Balance and Points
My eyes were opened after getting involved in some ETC style events a while back (which made me consider different mission formats), and following on from them it was a case of experimentation and accumulated experience at smaller events that used the CA mission pack. As I have played more and more using the CA format, by comparison, the ITC missions have looked more and more restrictive. I should point out I am not promoting the Maelstrom missions, but specifically the latest batch of Eternal War missions found in CA2019.
Following on from this an argument can also be made that the ITC results should not influence any unit points or balance adjustments because the missions fundamentally change the game. Balancing is more difficult than people give it credit for, and the ITC missions do obfuscate things. The objectives and terrain can have a tangible and significant impact on how effective units are.
A classic example:
- How much are 5 Heavy Bolters worth against an Ork army on an open table?
- How much are they worth against an Imperial Knight hidden behind lots of cover?
- How much is a scoring focused unit with teleportation worth in a mission where every objective is far away from your deployment?
- Is it worth the same when all the objectives are in your deployment? Of course not.
Because the ITC is so predictable and variation between missions is very limited, certain units become overly powerful and popular as a result, whilst others end up as completely ineffective.
Giving Thanks to the ITC Missions
Let’s not understate how much good work the ITC guys have done, especially in promoting the game, etc. The guys behind the ITC are a real credit to this hobby that we all love. Times have changed, however. GW has evolved and the ITC mission pack has now become restrictive and is no longer the most positive way to play the game as a result.
I also expect many competitive players to refute what I say. They often have limited experience with CA missions, they might refuse to believe that GW has done a good job with the pack, and perhaps some might simply be too set in their ways.
We’ve accepted the unit rules that GW put out without having to modify them. Let’s accept their mission packs too, or at the very least give them a solid try before dismissing them out of ignorance, inexperience or stubbornness.