Observations of the Mediocre Gamer


Bronson J. writes in with an editorial about what the view’s like from the middle of the pack!

Hello, Mediocre Gamer here, giving you some poorly thought out observations from the lower tier tables.  Take them with a grain of salt!

This LVO I took a Leviathan formation Tyranid list.  Two of my losses would have been complete flips – ie clear wins – had I done nothing different, but simply played the same list in the context of a CAD.  What I lacked was, of course, Objective Secured.  The experience made me think of the value of ObSec, and what it holds for the future.

With the latest wave of releases, we’re seeing a clear pattern of carrots dangled in front of players to get them to trade ObSec for something else.  Tyranids can trade it for Leviathan’s extra HQ.  Blood Angels can trade it for Baal’s +1 Int.  Necrons can trade it for Decurion’s +1RP.  A reasonable prediction would be that all future army releases, like Khorne and AdMech, will have some similar carrot.   But is it a carrot worth taking, that is the question I have.

If we look at this year’s LVO, all eight of the top lists had a least one ObSec troop in their list, although Sean Nayden won the event with only one (a ripper unit).   How important was ObSec to those lists?  I’m not sure, but would be really curious to hear.  I do know that my conversations with many of the top players at that event revealed that they nearly all spoke of the value of ObSec.

The Internet is abuzz about Decurion.  We’ve all read the wailing and gnashing of teeth that Decuion is the new top dog, and that no one would ever run anything else.  I’m not so sure.  While +1RP is nice, it can also be achieved, in small part, by attaching Crypteks.  At the end of the day, the overriding fact is that your entire ultra-resilient army can be camped on an objective and still lose it to a single 11 pt scout marine who can manage to get within 3”.  Durability has enormous value in a game about kill points and attrition, but less in a game about movement and board control.  What I’m very interested to see is if the top Necron lists six months from now are running pure Decurion, or include at least some form of ObSec.

Of course the obvious refrain is that non-ObSec armies can simply bubble wrap an objective to prevent access, which is true, to an extent.  It’s clearly easier to bubble wrap the relic than six objective games such as Scouring.  And responding on the fly to changing Maelstrom objectives makes bubble wrap a tactic that is often a bridge too far.

Now, I’ll be candid in saying that I think in the current framework of the game the CAD will still trump specialized formations.  But the bigger question to me is if that framework is changing.  If the trend in specialized detachments continues, what we’ll see is a diversification of how an army “wins” – some through offensive emphasis, some defensive, some movement, etc.  But of course that diversification is nested within the confines of tournament scenarios.

All of this has ramifications on how we structure our tournaments .  If Decurion and other specialized detachments alter the meta and power curve, is the answer to that to make ObSec more important?  And if so, how do TOs do that?  I find it interesting that European tournaments are much more likely to be Maelstrom based than US tournaments.  Does the US resistance to Maelstrom in competition need to change?  Are we falsely assuming that in a Primary/Secondary format like LVO the primary should always be Eternal War?

And conversely, are objective based scenarios and Maelstrom simply a way to overemphasize certain army advantages like mobility, in essence artificially increasing the value of certain armies and units?

If it’s true that specialized formations herald an expansion of army strengths and emphasis, will tournament formats and scenarios expand as well?  Do objective and non-objective based missions need to be included – one mission that rewards movement, while another rewards offensive ability, or lasting to the bitter end?

The Mediocre Gamer has no answers, only questions.


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

26 Responses to “Observations of the Mediocre Gamer”

  1. Kartr April 1, 2015 12:46 pm

    Maelstrom is how the game is supposed to be played, it’s actually what balances the game. It’s not perfect because of the d3 vp cards and the chance to draw an objective to kill something your opponent doesn’t have in their list. Other than those two problems maelstrom solves 90% of the balance problems in the game.

    You don’t need ranged D to counter death stars as the need to spread out and cover multiple objectives limits their utility. Scoring every turn forces the dominant shooting armies to move up and enter the threat envelope of shorter range shooting armies and melee armies.

    ObSec plays a vital role in the dynamic of maelstrom as it helps balance summoning, and gives generally weaker/less useful infantry an edge against the more powerful/popular heavy support, fast attack and elites slots.

    • Mr.MoreTanks
      Mr.MoreTanks April 1, 2015 1:11 pm

      “Maelstrom is how the game is supposed to be played, it’s actually what balances the game. It’s not perfect because of the d3 vp cards and the chance to draw an objective to kill something your opponent doesn’t have in their list. Other than those two problems maelstrom solves 90% of the balance problems in the game.”

      What version of Maelstrom are you playing with? Because I’ve obviously been using the wrong one. Cause I used the one that tells me to score an objective on the other corner of the board that I have all but 0 chance of getting unless I just table the guy anyways, or the one where doing something as tactically challenging and interesting as a Run move earns me a point.

      I love how you just brush over the whole idea of, “oh some of these points are just impossible to score, tough luck bro” like its a minor annoyances. How do you feel about First Blood? One or two points only one side can score is one thing, but having points that are flat out impossible to score is just stupid. Maelstorm doesn’t fix anything, it just creates a different set of problems. Arguably a much worse set.

      The idea of Maelstorm is really awesome, scoring points mid-game is very cool. Having it be totally random and unbalanced to where you might as well bring MSU Eldar Jetbikes or flying demons summoning things or else you’ll miss 1/2 of your scoring opportunities reveals a fundamental flaw with the system.

      • Reecius
        Reecius April 1, 2015 2:04 pm

        Yeah, I am not a fan of book Maelstrom missions, either but it is cool that Kartr likes them, for sure.

        I agree that they are cool in principal, but the book versions are mega lopsided. They just don’t work to create a balanced game in my experience.

        • Jural April 1, 2015 2:19 pm

          You can all be right, Maelstorm is impractical, cool in theory, bad for deathstars and some power lists, all while being intended to be a focus of this edition by GW.

          I like how the ITC handles this, and the move to 4 and 4 is another bullet aimed at the cheesier lists out there.

        • Kartr April 2, 2015 1:19 pm

          Could you explain what makes you feel that Maelstrom is “lopsided” Reece? And why the book missions can’t create balanced games?

          Because I feel it’s the mindset of players, especially during the list building phase, that creates lopsided games. Players reject “weak” units during list building because they don’t have the firepower or survivability to be a “strong” unit. What they don’t see is that, that unit may have the speed to turn the enemy line, or the cheap deep strike/out flank to be dropped into the enemy rear to pull them away from objectives. So we wind up with a lot of good units for a heavy weight boxing match, when we’re competing in the gymnastic all-around.

      • Jural April 1, 2015 2:21 pm

        I like the idea where each turn players win, lose, or draw maelstorm, then at the end of the game whoever won the most turns wins. At least a bad draw one turn or a good draw doesn’t make one side walk away teh automatic winner!

        • The Mediocre Gamer
          AgentP April 1, 2015 2:30 pm

          I just ran a tournament like that in Portland. The games were structured like tennis matches. Whoever got the most maelstrom victory points in that player turn “won” the turn (a set in tennis). Each turn was self contained, without point carryover. The first player to win four turns won the game.

          It needs fine tuning, but I will try a version of it again at a future tournament. It has potential.

      • Requizen
        Requizen April 1, 2015 2:23 pm

        Maelstrom is fine for fun games. But, it needs heavy house ruling and modifications to be made competitive. Auto discard anything that you can’t achieve (no buildings, no psykers on the enemy team, no vehicles on the enemy team, no Characters left standing, etc).

        At our store, we’ve started going even harder on houseruling them. All the “kill X in your turn” can be scored in your opponent’s turn as well, because it just makes more sense. If you draw “Hold Objective X” for an Objective you literally cannot reach – as in nothing in your army has the move speed to get to it in your turn no matter what, you can choose to discard it. D3 cards always give 2. Etc.

        Look at the poll and rules setup for ITC that just happened. While 40k is built on decent rules, to make it truly competitive it’s up to the competitive players to create that environment a reality, and that goes for Maelstrom too. If people want to have a truly competitive game, Maelstrom either needs to be heavily modified to make it more balanced, or done away with altogether.

        Just my thoughts on the matter.

      • Diceskill April 2, 2015 5:24 am

        If you have no way of ever scoring an objective in the opponents deployment zone, you are probably taking the wrong list. Maelstrom missions certainly don’t work for lists built to win Eternal War missions. Conversely, with a list built to play Maelstrom, the cards feel much less random.

        Most codexes actually allow for efficient Maelstrom builds, with OS being a major factor. It just requires a change of mindset when building your list.

      • tag April 2, 2015 8:42 am

        Your problems with Maelstrom are a lack of good objective placement rules, not with the Maelstrom mechanic. If you limit the ability for objectives to be placed in corners, or deep in deployment zones, you also limit the ability to have functional unachievable objectives.

        What I’ve found generally playing Maelstrom is that some people try to approach it with their Eternal War armies, and when they don’t do well “Maelstrom Sucks because it is too random, and asks me to do things I don’t normally do (run, assault)”. It is a different game that rewards different lists and styles of play, but if you approach it with an open mind, and some small tweaks (redraw impossible cards, objective placement rules, score 2 instead of D3) you will find yourself with a more fun game.

        It shifts the scale of reliable to random a little bit in the random direction. On the scale of List Building to Gameplay it is a shift in favor of Gameplay. But the most important factor of Maelstrom is the shift in favor of interactivity. By which I mean both armies are engaging, losing models, and scoring points. That is why it is so much more fun, and why it is so popular among players who aren’t at the cutting edge of competitive play.

        • Kartr April 2, 2015 1:24 pm

          Thank you, you said that far more eloquently than I can.

      • Kartr April 2, 2015 1:04 pm

        There really shouldn’t be objectives deep in a corner as objectives are placed before sides are determined. If you hide the objectives you place in deployment zones or corners, you are giving your opponent points.

        Maelstrom is all about establishing board control/presence. Most, if not all, of the objectives should be out of the deployment zones. Lists have to contain some sort of mobility, like Chimaeras or sentinels and you need to focus not so much on killing enemy units, as much as on dictating the flow of the game.

        That’s really the beauty of it, you don’t have to rush the guns of a Tau/Taudar/IG gun line and kill his dudes. Instead you force him to come out to you by taking midfield objectives. You use the objectives to make them fight on your terms not theirs. Whether is a gun line or death star you’re facing, you can out maneuver them and force them to play catch up.

        The best maelstrom type mission is where you draw a card for every objective you control. Because more than the other missions, it rewards maneuvering, strategy and long term thinking. Regardless, maelstrom is more chess like as you’re really thinking about board control, supporting units with other units, setting up pins and forks, out maneuvering your opponent and setting the tempo.

        You don’t have to be MSU jet bikes or summoning demons, because if you’re already that back footed to where you need to race across the board chasing the latest card, you’re doing it wrong and you’ve already lost. I play a Rhino based Imperial Fists list and it does well in every maelstrom mission. I move them up to the middle so that they can easily shift between the majority of objectives. I keep them in squads of ten to increase their durability and firepower. They maneuver so that there are always two squads within 6-10″ inches of each other so they can support by fire, or be in range to launch a supporting assault. They’re backed up by a solid fire base (sicaran, tfire, and mortis dreadnought) and I use a squadron of tempest land speeders as a reserve/trouble shooter unit.

        The complaints I always see, including yours, boil down to two things: mindset and the “Kill x”/d3 vp cards. I know you play Guard, Deep Strike Scions or drop veterans from a valk into that backfield area near the objective. Get them into cover and support them with Basilisk and Leman Russ fire. You may never actually be able to score that objective, but you can prevent your opponent from scoring it and dictate the tempo of the game because they now have to fight over that objective, tying up resources that could be taking or contesting objectives elsewhere. That illustrates what I mean by mindset, because too many people think troops in valks is a bad idea because it’s more fragile than a blob, and it doesn’t pack the same amount of dakka. They say Scions are to expensive for what they bring, and yeah in a straight up kill points or an eternal war mission that’s true. Maelstrom is a different beast though, you don’t just build for sheer survivability and dakka, you need mobility and the ability to set the pace and tone of the game. You need to be able to force your opponent to dance to your tune by threatening objectives and that is the mindset most people who don’t like maelstrom don’t have. They tend to be locked into the idea of simply slugging it out and therefore only taking units that give the most durability and firepower for the PPM. Objectives and mobility are secondary concerns, which handicaps the army because they lack deep striking or zooming units that can threaten objectives in “enemy territory.”

    • IndigoJack April 1, 2015 1:34 pm

      If maelstron is the way the game is supposed to be played, then I don’t see the reason for the inclusion of eternal war missions.

      • Diceskill April 2, 2015 5:29 am

        There is a whole table of Warlord Traits only for Maelstrom missions, so Maelstrom is certainly intended as a major option to play the game.

    • Mark Aksel April 2, 2015 7:33 am

      Are you the same crazy guy that was posting on torrent of fire a few days ago?

  2. Mr.MoreTanks
    Mr.MoreTanks April 1, 2015 1:12 pm

    But I’m not bitter.

  3. evil_bryan April 1, 2015 2:32 pm

    Excellent article Bronson!

    I really enjoy maelstrom missions for casual games (mostly what I play), but luck of the draw and some of the cards can really impact the experience.

    I would love to see a drafting mechanism or deck building aspect to better balance the maelstrom cards.

    • fluger April 3, 2015 9:58 am

      Both of those sound fun for one off games at a club, but would add a lot of time to tournament games IMO.

  4. TinBane April 1, 2015 2:43 pm

    I just want to point out, maelstrom can, in some cases, make it appear that the game is more balanced. It prevents lists that rely on playing defensively, from taking up their position.

    The way it does this though, is to introduce so much chaos to the game, that the imbalance is a relatively mild annoyance. Then you play against a highly powerful and fast list, and you’ll find they do very well indeed on maelstrom.

    If you have a subset of the full range of lists, or you play friendly games, maelstrom is fun and might be balanced. It doesn’t “fix” balance. You can’t argue that a CSM list would be on par with the most abusive eldar list in 40k, just from introducing maelstrom. Eldar are both more point efficient with regard to damage, and have faster obsec units. It won’t even be close!

  5. Bellerah April 1, 2015 3:34 pm

    ObSec. Units – I think they cover up for non optimum play. This is not a knock on your playing but as you are saying, they would have won you the games if they were ObSec, tells me you were not playing your army the optimum way and were playing it more like the standard CAD? Why were you in the position you were in?

    I think here you see a good example of what makes the top players ahead of us middling players.

    But I have not seen ObSec really turn the tides in may games with the exception of Jetbikes and Drop pods. These we will treat as special.

    I see these units being used all the time to sit on objectives in the back. Any unit could do this. the advantage is for them to be involved in snatching contested objectives or blocking other obsec. units. To do this they need to be used in precise ways, protected if they are vulnerable, like IG, put in positions to react to multiple situations like jetbikes

    Though I like the sound of the maelstormrules AgentP said I never played with them.

    I would say the first balancing thing I would take is you get to redraw cards until all cards are are in theory achievable as you should always have the possibility of scoring a point with a card. the d3 vp should never be on a card, though allowing the opposing player to choose the primary card to be worth d3 points could be interesting development, which introduces sort of a counter intelligence kind of element into the game. Gives reason to why holding objective 3 in the back far corner is worth a d3 this turn ( as it is the enemies communications hub)

    • Jural April 1, 2015 4:03 pm

      I think it’s actually less a table top decision and more of a list building decision. If you have a more powerful option which is not Ob Sec, but you choose the Ob Sec option, you have to understand why you did this.

      Example- Dropping a Hive Tyrant to get an extra couple of Ob Sec units may well be worth it, but you can’t imagine both lists will play identically, you’ll just have ripper swarms contesting in one game. Contesting ripper swarms last one turn, maybe. Their entire value as Ob Secure is in stealing an objective next to a unit locked in CC, or grabbing an objective late in a turn. Is that worth the extra HT flying around?

  6. DCannon4Life April 2, 2015 5:58 am

    Since we’re talking ObSec: Does embarking an ObSec unit onto a non-dedicated transport (one that is not Objective Secured) grant the transport ObSec status?

    With regard to Maelstrom (the AdeptiCon take on it, not the GW incarnation): Optimal implementation very nearly necessitates re-examining every step of the pre-game setup. In particular, objectives need to be placed before players determine deployment zones. ‘Smart’ placement has objectives within 3″ of the edge of a deployment zone, allowing for the possibility of scoring an extra point for being outside a deployment zone (or in the opponent’s deployment zone). Burying objectives deep in DZs comes with increased risk (of not being able to score them at all).

    The situation where a player draws an objective card (or cards) that he cannot score this turn (because it is mechanically impossible to move any unit far enough to get there) is not automatically the fault of the card(s): In order to have a reasonable chance to score any given objective, units have to be spread out (start the QQ now?). Spreading units out is risky, perhaps more so if the list is low model count, or deathstar-ish, or slow (or non-ObSec). The availability of cover plays into this as well. Solutions? Re-evaluate each element of a list. Re-examine deployment, keeping the objectives in mind. Also, advocate for an increase in LoS blocking terrain AND player-placed terrain (again, place terrain before determining DZs).

    Also: Anyone ever roll on the ‘Tactical’ Warlord Trait table? Or are we all just rolling on Strategic (unless we have sweet Codex traits)…?

    Is Maelstrom balanced? No. Are the Eternal War missions balanced? No. The significant difference is that Eternal War missions are boring, and encourage writing boring lists (and encourage me to bring Jet Bikes for last-turn, ‘I-win’ moves, which I have done many times, and which I find to be boring). Maelstrom is not boring. I prefer not to be bored.

  7. Kwodd April 2, 2015 8:25 am

    Obsec Tervigons should be spawning obsec gants!

    • Jural April 2, 2015 3:57 pm

      agreed! This is a lame rules loophole.