There has been a lot of chatter online for days now about what changes should, or should not, be made to the ITC Missions for the 2020 season. With calls for all sorts of things from removing certain secondaries to adding in secondaries to target specific list archetypes and force the meta to punish certain builds over others, to wanting to remove objectives from a game via “burning” them like in Age of Sigmar or the Chapter Approved 2019 Eternal War Missions. When you comb through the calls for change to the ITC Missions a few patterns are easily discernable around the comments:
- Boredom with the current missions, they have effectively been the same for the vast majority of 8th edition.
- Players feel the secondaries currently target, or otherwise unfairly go after, specific unit types, list builds, codices etc. They aren’t wrong about this.
- The Seize mechanic is good in certain circumstances, but bad in others, depending on the deployment type used.
- They want to use the Secondaries/Primaries to move the meta toward a game that is different, generally, one that is less sit back and shoot, and more tactical in nature around the objectives themselves.
Ultimately a lot of what people are asking for is a new ITC Mission set that is more tactical in nature than the current missions which are definitely more strategic based. Before we go on let’s define what is meant by Strategic versus Tactical in a gaming sense.
- Strategic: relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them.
- In gaming terms a Strategic game is one where you have a broad overall strategy for victory, a plan, you stick to. Currently in 40k, with the ITC Missions, the game is very strategic in nature. Army Composition and List Building are easily the two most important factors in success competitively. Building a list that effectively achieves Primary and Secondary Missions while keeping the enemy from achieving Secondaries easily has been a hallmark of the ITC Missions. That’s strategic, it’s something that occurs outside the game and cannot be easily affected in-game.
- Tactical: relating to or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific military end.
- In gaming terms, Tactical decisions are made in-game, based upon the changing landscape of the game itself. Tactical games are based more upon variables and responses to those variables than on the careful planning that occurs in the more strategic arena of list building. A more tactical version of the ITC Missions would be more indicative of player skill, as tactics are player skill-based, as opposed to the Strategic 40k we have now that is based more upon number crunching and pre-planning for effectiveness given the known variables.
- Strategic 40k lends itself to point and click armies, and armies designed to deny their opponent points while farming a specific amount themself. Tactical 40k would create a more varied landscape of lists, more toolbox oriented armies designed around achieving specific goals but with the necessary flexibility to adapt to the unknown variables of the Mission itself, especially in terms of their opponent’s actions and objectives.
I think it is important for us to look at some examples of tactics oriented competitive games as a point of reference. Two examples from the gaming world of tactics being an important, and positive, aspect of a game are the MOBA/DOTA/LoL models of games. League of Legends is the most popular esports game and has been for a long time, so taking a look at what makes it competitive is a decent place to start. League of Legends: You can score gold off of minions by being fast enough, so it’s dependent on you and your decisions. Which area (tower) your team attacks are based upon your decision(s), and your reaction to the opposing team is likewise a tactical decision. One of the reasons League of Legends is so popular is because the game designed about decisions you make. Sure, someone better than you may stomp you, but you can up your own game, and not be constantly stumped by what they are doing. For DoTA/other Moba’s: You can score gold off of minions by being fast enough, and your opponent can deny you minion kills, thus creating a bit more interactivity in the tactical decisions. So, like League, if 40K became more oriented towards I’m doing the right thing vs my opponent is stopping me, then it adds more chance for comebacks, hope, closer games, etc. Sure, good players will still stomp some players from time to time but a more tactical game allows variance in that outcome more than a Strategic game. By limiting how you can prevent scoring to kills and movement/area denial, the game comes to a more even sitting and also allows for more list opportunities. Rather than designing lists from the outset, strategically, to deny secondaries and prevent opponent interaction, it encourages more tactical lists and plays that depend on player skill and decisions. So how do we create Missions that are more tactical in nature?
Games Workshop has actually done this for us. Many people have been calling for the ITC to adopt more of what GW has published for missions in Chapter Approved 2019. Something they published in CA 2019 regarding missions, that is a revamp of their old system, and something utilized by the ITC previously is the Tactical Objectives missions. Or as they used to be called, and are still more commonly referred to as, Maelstrom missions.
Using the Maelstrom, or Tactical Objectives cards/charts provides us with a game that is far more tactical in nature. By using the Maelstrom of War Tactical Objectives decks, found in CA 2019 beginning on page 70, in the ITC Missions we would be shifting the game away from the strategic and towards the tactical. Providing players with a meta that is healthier and more diverse than one we would get under the more strategic format we currently have. Maelstrom missions provide less “known” quantities in the equation of how a mission will be played out. By increasing the number of variables that will occur during the course of play we decrease the ability of players to plan for and “solve” the match up equation in the list building step. Shifting us toward the tactical and away from the strategic thus creating a situation where more types of lists, and codices, can conceivably compete. The more random, and more tactical, elements provided through the use of the Tactical Objectives deck also helps shift the games away from being a case of going first and winning, or even away from games being decided turn 1/2 and simply playing through the motions for the remaining 4-5 turns. The Tactical Objectives, and Maelstrom format, provide a more even playing field for players and increases the chance the game will be decided by player skill in-game, rather than planning skills in the strategic list building phase. It allows for mistakes to be made in-game and capitalized on, or failed to be taken advantage of, in-game.
So how could the ITC go about implementing Maelstrom Missions and/or the Tactical Objectives decks? A few options are open to us. First, we simply go with the straight Chapter Approved 2019 Maelstrom Missions as written. While the simplest, it is the most drastic of the choices at our disposal. A decent middle-ground option is to keep the Primary objectives as they are for Missions 1-6 and replace the Secondaries, as they are now, with Tactical Objectives via the rules found in CA 2019. This would give players a bit of the familiar with a bit of the new. Another interesting middle-ground option would be to keep Kill and Hold as Primary objectives, plus the bonus, and remove hold more/kill more plus Tactical Objectives as the Secondaries.
There are of course other options too. A combination of revamping the Primary Objectives and keeping a few secondaries: 4 having to do with kill, 4 having to do with holding objectives, and then Tactical Objectives as an option for secondaries. That though will create a situation where some players design lists to only utilize the 8 secondaries they can choose from and eschew the deck altogether which would introduce a situation where some players are trying to solve, using strategy, and others are playing the tactical game. Which could be a good thing, but on the surface looks bad to me.
Regardless of the form change to the ITC Missions ultimately takes for the 2020 season it is obvious that players want changes made, and they seem to want some fairly drastic changes at that. By introducing Maelstrom/Tactical Objectives decks as the secondaries in the ITC Missions we will be dramatically shifting the game away from the strategic, and solvable, toward the tactical and more skill-based. Which, given the opinion that the current ITC Missions create a too stagnant meta from a strategic (list archetype) perspective, makes the shift to Maelstrom/Tactical Objective cards the obvious course of action.
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