The new ITC missions are here and everyone is scrambling to revamp their lists to deal with them- but there’s a lot more to look at in choosing your secondary missions than most players realize, and it can significant affect which army you choose to play and how you write your list.
The ITC Champion Missions are a significant divergence from the previous ITC missions. Unlike before, where you had six distinct missions (each based off one of the book missions) which scored alongside a pseudo-maelstrom mission, in the Champion missions you have a single “general” mission with different objective placement (and deployment) each time in combination with eight secondary missions that you can choose from. Although the changes to the “general” missions are quite important and worthy of being discussed, that isn’t what I’m going to focus on this time- instead, I’d like to talk about how the secondary mission choices should be influencing how you write and think about lists.
The secondary missions are a major point of variance in the ITC Champion mission pack. It is a safe assumption that, bar tabling, a player will earn 2pts each turn off of the primary mission (one for holding an objective, one for killing a unit.) The two additional points each battle round (for holding more objectives and killing more units) will be distributed between the two players, creating what we might term our “primary” variance of up to 12pts (i.e. 2pts per turn.) However, all of these points rely on essentially the same metrics- you want to hold objectives and kill units as much as possible. Armies with good board control and good resilience will do well on the primary portion of the missions, and I think most people understand that.
However, the secondary missions are somewhat less obvious in how they influence things. Up to 12pts are available for the secondary missions for each player, and these points are scored individually- one player’s ability to score secondary points has no direct relation on the other. However, these secondary missions are also where choices at the list-writing and pre-game steps can have the most influence on things- I’ve seen many players make poor choices in selecting their secondaries and as a result score very poorly on the mission as a whole. Similarly, certain unit choices can give away secondary points incredibly easily- it’s possible for a single model to give up as much as nine points of the maximum twelve towards the secondary missions when it dies, though obvious this is an extreme case. More generally, however, some lists will be easy to score points against with these missions while others will not, and players who optimize their lists with these factors in mind can garner a significant edge in scoring and hence do much better during their games.
So let’s go through the secondary missions one by one with an eye towards how they’ll each function during a game and how we are likely to score them.
Headhunter: 1pt each time you destroy an enemy character
This one is pretty straightforward- kill characters, get points. It acts as a mild deterrent for lists that run a lot of characters in them- I say “mild” because by their very nature characters are typically rather hard to get rid of, being protected against shooting as they are. With almost every list out there fielding at least three characters simply due to the basic qualifications of most detachments, this one is hard to optimize against in the extreme- but many lists will only bring 3-4 possible targets and several of them will be utility characters that prefer to hide in the back and thus are difficult to get rid of. On the other hand, it can be a big disincentive for lists that rely heavily on aggressive short-range characters to do their heavy lifting, as in those circumstances it is a pretty easy 4pts.
Kingslayer: 1pt for every 2 wounds dealt to a single character (3 wounds if it has the vehicle/monster keyword)
Commonly confused with Headhunter, this one essentially acts as a replacement for Slay the Warlord (which is notably absent in the Champion missions.) As your opponent will get to pick the character, rather than you getting to choose your warlord, it’s not exactly equivalent, but the same basic mechanic is there. Since virtually no characters are less than four wounds and quite a few of them are six or more, this one is often a relatively easy set of points- though as we noted in Headhunter, the character status itself offers a decent bit of protection. However, for characters with ten wounds or more this can be quite punishing- Hive Tyrants, Longstrike, Magnus, etc, all are virtually guaranteed to give up full points for Kingslayer. It’s also worth noting that the wounds lost are kept track of across deaths/resurrections- so Celestine, Ghilleman, or an Avatar popping back to life will continue to award points on their second incarnation. Since all of these are targets you will almost certainly want to be killing by the end of the game in any case, since they are either centerpieces for an army or highly aggressive, it shouldn’t be a hard choice to take Kingslayer in these instances.
The Reaper: 1pt for every unit of 10 or more models, 2pts if it was 20 or more models.
This is a big one right here. While killing off big horde units (the nominal point) can be difficult, especially in the case of stuff like 30-strong Ork Boyz or 50-strong Mutant Rabble, you don’t need to be getting rid of huge units to score a lot of points here- 1pt each for medium-sized squads can also add up really quickly against an army that fields very many of them. Reaper should be a huge consideration in designing your army- where at all possible, do not give your opponent an easy 4pts here because that is going to make winning games quite a bit harder. Put those Heavy Weapon Teams into your IG squads, shy away from minimum-size Cultists and maximum-size Tacticals, etc, etc.
Recon: 1pt if you have at least one unit in all four table quarters at the end of your turn.
This one is an easy “default” for a lot of players when other options look unpalatable, but scoring maximum off of it can be fairly difficult when your game is going downhill, as you probably won’t have sufficient control of the board and/or unit count to keep doing this for long. However, it’s very easy to get 2ish points from Recon, which means it sometimes will be a thing you take regardless. In any case, it is a big bonus for armies that field some kind of reserve units that can easily get where you need them.
Big Game Hunter: 1pt for every model with 10+ wounds you destroy.
This is another one where your choices can make a big difference. Although vehicles and other large targets can bring a lot of firepower to a list, they are quite vulnerable to many of the high-damage weapons out there and can easily be focused down by certain types of lists. Knowing that, Big Game Hunter is a very easy choice against an army that fields any significant number of vehicles- these are targets that you are probably going to want to kill already in order to degrade the firepower of your enemy’s list, so you’re not even going to have to make any special effort in order to get these points. Note that “light” vehicles such as Dreadnoughts, Sentinels, etc, won’t qualify for this and thus come at a significant advantage here.
Titanslayer: 1pt for every 8 wounds you deal to a Titanic model.
Although generally not an option, against any list with one or more superheavies this should be a pretty obvious choice. Knights start at 24 wounds, which is three points right off the bat- and more if they’re running more than one of them (though of course you’re limited to four points for any given mission.) In combination with Big Game Hunter and/or Kingslayer, this can potentially earn you quite a few points- but remember that Magnus/Mortarion are not Titanic units and even a Knight warlord is not a character. The presence of Titanslayer makes splashing a single superheavy into an army even less enticing of a proposition than it might otherwise be- although a lone Knight might not allow your opponent to max their points out, it does give them the opportunity to score very close to with only a pretty finite effort that they would almost certainly need to undertake anyways, and even in a losing game it lets them get a large chunk of points before they go out.
Behind Enemy Lines: 1pt for each unit within 12″ of the enemy board edge at the end of the game.
This one is… not great, for a variety of reasons. The biggest strike against it is that it doesn’t score until the end of the game- so in situations where you are losing (and thus probably losing most of your units in the process), you are likely to get zero points out of it. But even in a winning game you are likely to take a lot of attrition in the process (unless you’re completely devastating your opponent), which means you probably aren’t going to have a ton of units that you can move into the enemy deployment zone. And even if none of those things are true- you make it to the end of the game, winning, with lots of units, you still are going to need at least three units that aren’t sitting on an objective (because you will still need units on objectives every turn) in order to get any real mileage out of it. Long story short, don’t take Behind Enemy Lines.
Death By One Thousand Cuts: 1 pt each battle round that you kill three or more units.
This one is a lot harder than people tend to think for a lot of reasons. Getting it on turn 1 or turn 2 isn’t that hard- both players are going to be hitting each other pretty hard during the early turns of the game, so while it’s not trivial to do, you should be able to accomplish it without too much going out of your way. However, as the game goes on there will be fewer of your units on the field and fewer enemy units as well- that means less firepower on your side to do work and less easy targets to nick a point off of. So while you can certainly get a couple points off it, scoring a full four is going to be quite difficult- that assumes, at the very least, that your opponent had twelve units to kill and that you got rid of them in just the right sequence, which is a pretty high bar to clear.
There’s no way to build an army that doesn’t give up any points on the secondaries- but you can minimize the easy points you give away to your opponent, and you by all means should. Games are won and lost by playing to the mission, and with the ITC Champion missions that means writing a list that is capable of both gaining points for itself and minimizing the points it gives to the opponent. If you can max out your secondaries will ensuring that the enemy can only score 1-3pts on each of theirs, you are in a very good position to win even if the other player is consistently ahead of you on both kills and objectives. A list that avoids focusing too heavily in one area, having three or four or more secondaries where the opponent can realistically score perhaps 2pts each, but not max out any of them, is in a very good position indeed.