Why the ITC 2020 Season Missions Should use Maelstrom Cards for Secondaries.

Hello Warhammer 40k aficionados, SaltyJohn from TFG Radio here to talk to you about why Maelstrom cards should be used in the ITC Missions.

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.

If you’re really worried about there being stagnant list archetypes like the gunline, introduce more variations to the missions, not secondaries designed to punish specific lists.

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.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About SaltyJohn

John has been playing Warhammer 40k since the 3rd edition box set with Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and weird green palm trees were in the set. He is currently a 40k Head Judge for the Las Vegas Open, the largest 40k tournament in the world. An avid board gamer, a huge fan of video games, and a guest spot on Geek and Sundry as a "Historian" during an episode of "Game the Game" round out his geek credentials. You can catch "Salty" John on TFG Radio's Twitch Show, and Podcast, as well as find him streaming video games on Twitch on the TFG Radio Twitch page from time to time.

83 Responses to “Why the ITC 2020 Season Missions Should use Maelstrom Cards for Secondaries.”

  1. Michael Corr February 6, 2020 12:47 am #

    I love maelstrom missions and would love to see their inclusion. I think they lead to more dynamic games, rather than just focusing on killing your opponent.

    I’ve only recently started playing ITC missions regularly, but there seems to be a huge emphasis on killing things, much more disproportionate to holding objectives, or certainly the killing things objectives are generally easier to achieve.

    As much as I am enjoying 8th edition, it has been some of the worst tournament experiences I’ve ever had in the game, even including the worst days of 7th edition. The Castellan, Ynnari and Iron Hands are some of the worst games I have played of 40k ever. It was soul crushing going up to a table at a tournament and knowing there was absolutely no possibility of winning the game, or even making it close, unless you wanted to bring your own filth net list.

    • Reecius February 6, 2020 5:59 am #

      The balance in hold/kill in ITC is actually skewed towards holding objectives if you break down the math. It’s only if you choose all kill secondaries that that changes. But the missions as a whole are actually skewed towards holding objectives slightly.

      And love it or hate it, in the USA the vast majority of competitive players are very negative towards maelstrom missions (although I agree they have gotten a lot better).

      • steven pampreen February 6, 2020 6:25 am #

        Can confirm on maelstrom opinion.

        Also, people talking about code of conduct and cheating issues already, now let’s add all the issues that go with having a deck of cards.

        • Reecius February 6, 2020 6:28 am #

          Yeah, it is SO easy to cheat with maelstrom cards if you are that type of person.

          • r3v0lv3r February 7, 2020 1:18 am

            Cheaters will always find a way to cheat, regardless of the mission format, so that is not really argument. What i dislike in ITC is some units are simple not used, because they give to much points and that is backstop to the quality of the games.

        • steven pampreen February 6, 2020 6:29 am #

          Not even talking on purpose just accidentally forgetting your discard pile at a previous table and now you’re short 4 cards or knowing that your hold objective 4 card has a bent corner.

          I just….really don’t like maelstrom without even responding to all the arguments in this admittedly well thought out article.

        • Tim Nordin February 8, 2020 12:29 am #

          I have played etc format competativly for years. Never had a single issue with the decks. Never even heard of one.

          • Michael Corr February 10, 2020 2:11 am

            Agreed. I have never had a tournament maelstrom game where I thought for a minute that my opponent was cheating.

      • Michael Corr February 6, 2020 6:46 am #

        I agree that the way the missions are designed are skewed towards objective holding, with the bonus points. I’m curious if there are any figures on how often the bonus gets scored in games, and if it factors into competitive ITC games all that much?
        From the admittedly limited games that I have played so far, the bonus hardly ever comes up.

        One of the things that I do love about ITC missions is that they are generally a lot closer than most maelstrom and eternal war missions, in my experience.

        • Reecius February 6, 2020 7:52 am #

          The ITC Battles App tracks that data, they post about it from time to time. The Bonus point is intentionally very hard to get but the top players score it regularly.

      • Caleb February 6, 2020 7:53 am #

        An issue is that the scoring is only slightly objective leaning. Killing, killing more, and getting secondaries for killing also allow you to hold more and claim late game objective secondaries late.

        The primary system is fine imo. But the secondaries need work. I personally don’t think you should be able to pick more than one killing secindary. Maybe there should be catagories and you can pick max one from each category. Killing things IMO should be a means to an end, not the end itself.

        Most of the castling armies pick 2 kill secondaries and ground control (or some other late game secondary) then they give up hold more and maybe the bonus but by turns 5 and 6 have obliterated the opponents army and finally move out.

  2. Hotsauceman1 February 6, 2020 1:02 am #

    What a put the old system of each turn having a special mealstrom your rolled.
    Maybe make it a D10-d12 system with corresponding objectives

  3. Victor Yanguas February 6, 2020 1:43 am #

    There is no skill involved in Maelstrom if you get bad cards and your opponent get good ones. For example, Hold or defend objetive X, and objective X is in your opponent’s deployment zone.

    From my experiece, for armies capable of anhilating half of the opposing army turn 1 or 2, they do not care about ETC, ITC, whatever…. You cannot score enough if your army has been almost wiped out in turn 2

    • Michael Corr February 6, 2020 3:21 am #

      I completely disagree, especially with the new rules for building your maelstrom deck and drawing your cards. The cry has always been that maelstrom involves no skill, but I think it is the opposite. Maelstrom games are a lot tougher to win than Eternal war or ITC. You have to plan for what cards you draw and have an army that is capable of going out and achieving the objectives.

      • Ohlmann February 6, 2020 3:57 am #

        You probably should explain what you mean by “maelstrom games are a lot tougher to win”. On surface, 50% of participant of any kind of W40K game have a win, so you probably refer to being tougher to play in some unspecified way, not tougher to win.

        • Michael Corr February 6, 2020 4:28 am #

          Yes, I meant tougher to play than some game types.

    • robtype0 February 7, 2020 3:09 am #

      Old-school Maelstrom missions were like this, to an extent, though I’d argue that the idea that no skill was involved is a little ignorant. Armies that excel at Maelstrom (and this has always been the case) are those that are dynamic, both in terms of their movement ability and their ability to kill different things in a variety of ways. When you could be forced to kill three units with shooting one turn, and be in your opponent’s deployment zone the next, you’d better bring a list that can do a little bit of everything. Static gunlines that focus on castling up and killing until they win are much less effective.

      In the up-to-date Maelstrom missions you build a deck of 18 or more cards, meaning you are only obliged to use half of the deck. This alone allows you to completely discount some of the more difficult or bizarre objectives. From there, you draw a hand or cards, and you choose which of these to have in active play. This means you have two stages at which you can refine the missions you might draw. Pre-game, when building your deck, and turn-to-turn, as you dynamically select what you want to play based on the game state.

      On top of this, you have three stratagems available to influence your cards. These allow you to swap cards in your hand for cards in your deck, reshuffle the top three cards of your deck, and return discarded cards to your deck.

      The effect of all this is that there are much fewer occasions where the cards in play are so unbalanced that one player achieves an unreachable lead. You can be fairly sure that between refining your deck, choosing the right cards to play from your hand and manipulating the cards through stratagems, you will always have a chance to be taking an active and meaningful part in the game, with the ability to tailor your missions to give you a chance whatever the game state.

      • Michael Corr February 10, 2020 2:14 am #

        Couldn’t have said it better myself. The cry of so many players is “it’s simply too random to be competitive”. I have played in a number of tournaments using maelstrom format and have placed in the top 3 at almost all of them.

        To say that is simply due to my luck with the cards in each and every event is ridiculous. It takes a different skill set and army build to win maelstrom games as you have said.

        • Zweischneid February 10, 2020 5:58 am #

          I am not sure why people bring up the random argument.

          The most basic Maelstrom draw (no removing cards, no pre-selecting the deck, no multiple cards) is 1 outcome out of 36 in the sample space, with obviously several outcomes being an identical events (e.g. hold objective 2).

          That is statistically identical to the number of outcomes of a 2D6 roll for a charge or a psychic power. Sure there are bad results. The chance of drawing the “cast a psychic power” playing Tau is exactly the same as rolling snake eyes on a charge.

          Most people playing 40K should be able to grasp these kind of probabilities (and good players can anticipate and play for the risk of drawing that card, just as they can anticipate and play to not lose on the probability of rolling snake eyes on a charge or key psychic power).

          And that is 1 card out of 36. With drawing multiple cards, removing cards, strats to return cards, etc.. the variance falls far, far below that, infact it’s more predictable than most dice rolls in 40K.

          • abusepuppy February 10, 2020 8:54 am

            Usually more than one out of the thirty-six cards is “blank’, in the sense that you can’t achieve it on a given turn. In fact, quite a few of them usually are- for example, all of the “control an objective” cards that correspond to objectives that your opponents strongly control, or that are in positions that none of your units can move to reach this turn.

            However, that misses the core point entirely: it’s not that Maelstrom is necessarily _more_ random than other elements in the game, it’s that an _additional_ element of randomness that does not (in the opinions of many) enhance the game in any meaningful way.

            To take a parallel example: imagine that we add a new rule to the game of 40K, which says that each player rolls 2d6 at the end of each of their own turns. On snake eyes, you lose! The game is over, you get zero points. On boxcars, you win! You get maximum points immediately. Is this any more random than other rolls in the game already? As you have pointed out, it is not- there are already such elements that have strong binary results (Seize the Initiative, charge rolls, psychic powers, etc) in the game. However, it does not _add_ anything to the game, but does make it more random- and that’s why people dislike the randomness.

            (Obviously you feel that Maelstrom does add something to the game, but that’s not the point we’re arguing here.)

          • Zweischneid February 11, 2020 3:55 am

            Well, I am not married to maelstrom one way or another.

            But yes, whether through cards, dice, tarot, finger bones, whatever, the game needs to add more randomness to be meaningful.

            The problem with ITC and many other formats is precisely the lack of randomness and the predictability that add nothing to the game.

            Playing against a Knight list and scoring Titanslayer or facing a Coven list and getting those Gangbusters does not in any shape, way or form add any meaningful decisionmaking to the game. It’s just unneeded, tedious admin for the sake of it and a “no brainer” in the most literal sense of the word.

            On a charge roll, there are also a lot more than thirty-six outcome in the sample space that are “blanks”. A standard deep-strike charge has 26 out of 36 “blanks” and can just be as game deciding.

            But unlike (for example) Maelstrom, there’s far fewer ways for player skill to mitigate that (despite all the “pro people” preaching that good players don’t lose to dice and nobody should ever “blame the dice”).

            If the game hinges on making a 9″ charge turn 6, there’s nothing for you to do but roll.

            If the game hinges on drawing supremacy or secure objective 5 on turn 6, and you know your deck, know the probability of drawing it as it hasn’t come up yet and set up your army to get that card turn 5, there’s a satisfiying skill-element involved that separates good players that “don’t complain about cards/dice” from newbs that do which actually is far more controllable by skill than any contingency strategy to mitigate “bad dice” could ever match.

    • Tim Nordin February 8, 2020 12:37 am #

      Have you even read the New missions? You choose your cards, and have ways to draw/discard via CP. If you have hold x and defend x in the enemies deployment zone in this format then it is based on your skill lvl.

      • abusepuppy February 10, 2020 8:55 am #

        Yes, since you know before every game which objectives you will hold for the entire game and you never run out of CP to spend. Just like if you fail a charge, it’s because you chose to since you could’ve moved the unit differently and have CP to spend on rerolls.

  4. Victor Yanguas February 6, 2020 1:50 am #

    Other than maelstrom missions, a good angle in my opinion should be a wider variety of secondaries, some secondaries focused on killing and some focused on holding, forcing you to take some of the holding ones. But with no random involved

  5. Zweischneid February 6, 2020 3:01 am #

    Whether you use Maelstrom cards or dice or poker cards or whatever, some randomness is necessary for a game to actual have some semblance of tactical depth.

    Good mission-design must a) create unexpected challenges to “solve” in-game and b) create difficult decisions between what players need to kill/hold “to win the battle” and what players need “to kill/hold” to score points.

    A mission system that gives up points for holding places on the table where your army would be anyways and for killing the units in your opponents army you’d want to kil anyhow is just empty admin without any actual game-play value.

    • Michael Corr February 6, 2020 3:27 am #

      My problem with the kill secondaries at the moment is that you can score many of them in a single turn, while the objective-based ones take most of the game. For example, it is possible to score full points for Kingslayer, Titanslayer, Marked for Death, Headhunter, Gang Busters, Big Game Hunter and the Reaper in a single turn (not saying it is easy, it’s just possible), plus you get your killing bonuses on top of that.
      However, Recon and King of the Hill requires a minimum of 4 turns to max, while Behind Enemy lines and Engineers requires a minimum of 5.

      There is little incentive for a gun line to actually move about and engage, rather than just sit there and kill you.

      • Reecius February 6, 2020 5:54 am #

        Not really true. If you look at the armies performing well in the ITC it is typically not gunlines. Even the T’au armies that have been doing well have mobile elements in them.

        • Michael Corr February 6, 2020 6:40 am #

          Fair enough. Probably just a skewed opinion from the games I have played.

          • abusepuppy February 6, 2020 8:13 am

            Gunlines are very punishing to newer players (and comparatively-strong when played by newer players) because the decisions and strategies tend to be simpler overall- “shoot important things, don’t get touched in combat, roll onto objectives when everything is dead.”

            However, at the highest levels of the game, they suffer a lot because there are many ways to mitigate them- by denying LOS, by wrapping things in combat, by stacking hit penalties, etc. So “pure” gunline armies often look numerically daunting overall, but lack a lot of “depth” to be able to adapt to the tactics that can be used against them, hence why they generally aren’t dominant at the upper levels. Shooting armies can be, depending on the meta, but those shooting armies tend to be a lot more tricky than simply sitting there and hitting you with numerically-efficient firepower.

        • ITC Monger February 6, 2020 9:13 am #

          Didn’t the winner of LVO run a gunline type list? A lot of the meta currently just sits, scores via killing and not moving, then moves out with maybe 1 or 2 units… SM are hammering them eta right now and they do and for the most part are not that mobile currently.

          • abusepuppy February 6, 2020 8:26 pm

            A shooting list, but not a gunline list- which is an important distinction.

    • abusepuppy February 6, 2020 4:15 am #

      >some randomness is necessary for a game to actual have some semblance of tactical depth

      Hello my name is chess and I am the most enduring wargame that the world has ever seen, but apparently I am not strategic because a man on the internet had an opinion.

      • Ohlmann February 6, 2020 4:59 am #

        That’s less stupid than it sound, even if I disagree with the premisse. Strategy is having a plan robust to uncertainty and unforeseen events. While a game can entirely rely on what the opponent do, it’s often not enough, and in particular it mean if you can force the moves of your opponent it cease being strategic.

        Chess can be enduring for all the wrong reasons, and certainly have huge problems that are dismissed because of its popularity. I don’t think it should be dismissed offhand that easily, but it certainly is a defensible opinion.

      • Zweischneid February 6, 2020 5:43 am #

        There is very, very little (on the fly) tactics in chess outside of the top 3-5 people in the world.

        Learning, playing and improving in competitive chess is heavily skewed towards memorizing known and codified tactics. You learn common openings, coming responses to those openings, responses to those responses, etc.. and climb in skill by being able to know which tactics are available X numbers of turns on from a given position.

        Can Magnus Carlson pioneer new, previously unknown tactics? Probably.

        But for virtually all semi-competitive chess players, it’s more strategic in the sense of the way the article above uses the terms. You get surprised by a move at a chess tournament, you’re probably out. It’s not a game where you can turn it around tactically in game, precisely because the catalogue of established tactics is so deep and no randomness can give you an unexpected opening.

        Which is why competitive chess isn’t a very approachable game. To have even a remote chance of winning a few games at the lower mid-tables of the US Nationals takes years and years of practice and memorization. If you’re not into a chess club and practicing at a fairly young age, the barrier of entry to anything but the most casual chess games is enormous.

        Sure this has some appeal. From the GW catalogue (at an infinitely smaller scale), games like Underworlds and Blood Bowl are probably closer to that archetype with more established rote tactics like “cage” and “2:1 Grind“ that are varied upon only on the margins in a majority of games. But 40K isn’t really a game designed to scratch that itch.

      • Venkarel February 6, 2020 10:41 am #

        I thought Go was the most enduring war game the world has ever seen.

        • abusepuppy February 7, 2020 4:37 am #

          Go is older, but I believe chess is more popular from a worldwide perspective.

      • robtype0 February 7, 2020 3:18 am #

        Maybe you missed the lengthy section of the article that discussed the distinction between strategy and tactics. Chess is overwhelmingly more strategic than tactical.

        • abusepuppy February 7, 2020 4:36 am #

          No, I saw that, I just think that chess, like a lot of wargames, involves both tactical and strategic thinking.

  6. Ghosar February 6, 2020 6:40 am #

    It never ceases to amuse me when someone compares 40k to chess. Bloodbowl indeed is close enough.
    Abusepuppy you are much better than that, your comments are often very interesting to read. I guess everyone has bad days from time to time.

    More on topic, please please ITC, stay clear of “ETC stuff” like convoluted 40k scenarios. I have been suffering through these sh.tshows through years (like many European 40k tournament players) and it is NOT te way to go. Maestrom cards ok, but maelstrom + secondaries ? Recipe for disaster… Hopefully we are talking about REPLACING secondaries with M cards, yes ?

    • Reecius February 6, 2020 7:53 am #

      Remember this article is Salty John expressing his opinion, not that of the FLG or ITC staff.

    • abusepuppy February 6, 2020 8:18 am #

      I’m not comparing 40K to chess, I’m calling chess a game of tactics and strategy. I don’t think that is a terribly controversial thought. If I had explained, in painstaking detail, why we should all be thinking about when we are “in check” during a 40K game, then you would be well within your rights to tell me to shut my stupid mouth, but that wasn’t my intention at all.

  7. Shas’O February 6, 2020 7:19 am #

    Please no malestrom cards. Nothing worse than being a tau player and drawing manifest a power and deny a power LOL!

    • Michael Corr February 6, 2020 7:28 am #

      The new rules have fixed this issue. You pick your 18 cards from the deck of 36, so can remove all the cards you cannot achieve due to your own or your opponent’s army.
      Plus, you have more flexibility on what cards you activate each turn to score. It really is a much better system now.

  8. Anders February 6, 2020 7:59 am #

    Thank you Salty John for your honest attempt to use the criticism that has been directed towards ITC to create a more interesting format. Just the fact that we’re having this conversation in a constructive manner is a sign that we’re going in the right direction.

    Having said that my opinions are the following.

    – Tactical Objectives replacing secondaries sounds like a great idea! As has been said it leads to decisions taken during the game becoming more important than decisions taken before the game, which I think is healthy.

    – The critique that has been leveled against the Tactical Objectives as being too random, and “unfair” is no longer very valid after the change of deck-building that CA brought. Now you can have a deck with only cards that are achievable for your army. The only question will be “when” you will have to achieve them.

    – Saying that Tactical Objectives won’t work because people will cheat, points to a very sad state of the game. However I don’t think it is really such a big problem, and even if it were, people have been able to play Magic competitively for decades so I think it’s solvable.

    – One concern regarding the use of Tactical Objectives is the number of objectives in each mission. The cards are designed to be used with 6 Objectives and the ITC currently uses a varied number. Maybe this can be remedied through the deck-building but it’s something that has to be considered. I also assume that we would not be using the Faction specific cards because they vary wildly in difficulty and reward.

    • Spera February 6, 2020 8:37 am #

      In ETC/WTC it works in a way that you always have 6 objectives, even if eternal war part requires less.

  9. NinetyNineNo February 6, 2020 8:05 am #

    A common opinion I’ve heard is that Marines have kind of exposed some of the issues with the current ITC mission pack. Namely, they’re so damn efficient at killing that they can just blow you off the table and come ahead on points thanks to kill secondaries as well as kill/kill more even if they mostly ignore objectives. Combine that with the usual Marine lists being very resistant to kill secondaries outside Centurions/Aggressors giving up Gangbusters (which itself is probably the biggest culprit of “this unit is unviable because of arbitrary non-GW rules” out of the whole system) and it feels like the format just exacerbates the dominance of an already insanely overtuned faction.

  10. Duz_ February 6, 2020 8:18 am #

    I’ve been arguing for maelstrom since I first moved to the US in 2016 and played my first ITC event and saw how stale the missions are

    The Renegade format of that era was also far superior

  11. Walker February 6, 2020 8:31 am #

    I totally disagree.. Maelstrom cards have no place in competitive 40k. They’re just too random and you can lose a game simply by drawing bad cards. I really hope the ITC do not adopt them as this is the reason I play ITC and nothing else.

    There’s nothing wrong with the ITC missions as they are, just tweak the secondaries again. The ITC format in it’s current state is responsible for the rapid growth of competitive 40k over the last year or so and is certainly what attracted me and several team mates into playing, and attending more events. It’s had massive growth in popularity in the UK and ETC style events are dying off thankfully.

    • Anders February 6, 2020 8:42 am #

      I wonder if the people complaining about the randomness of Tactical Objectives are aware of the changes that CA 2019 brought with the Schemes of War.

      Here’s an article that explains how they work so that we can a have better informed conversation.


      • gvcolor February 6, 2020 10:00 pm #

        Ha – In my local area the ITC format is king, Chapter Approved is only picked up for the point costs, and new players quickly go with said format since it’s influence is so strong. I loved ITC missions from 7th ed, in 8e I don’t care for them at all or the scoring – but that’s my opinion 🙂

        Love the Terrain Rules from Cities of Death in CA2018 – most do not use them.

  12. Jeff Poole February 6, 2020 9:23 am #

    So I don’t think Maelstrom is a good idea. The ITC missions themselves used to have random secondaries where you would roll a dice every turn. When 8th edition rolled around those were removed and my understanding is that the player base LOVE that change (I know I did) as it removed the ability for “bad luck” to remove your chance to win.

    To those people who are saying the randomness of Maelstrom would increase tactical choice, I say look at it from the other side of the coin. By adding in random elements you’re adding in a random factor to the game that can stop you from scoring point. It can stop you from having tactical choices. Yes, you can customize your maelstrom deck in the current rules, but that still will not change that fact that you will, inevitably, draw a card you cannot achieve in a game. When you’re already in an uphill match-up, you’re suddenly allowing a random deck of cards to take away ANY options you had to win by drawing cards that are realistically unobtainable.

    Finally, let’s be honest. It doesn’t matter what the mission is when you’re playing a non-marine list into a meta-marine list these days (for most average players). The meta-marine builds (like Imperial Fist artillery spam) don’t give a shit about the mission. They will go first and delete 75% of your army and the other 25% over the next turn or two.

    • r3v0lv3r February 8, 2020 12:19 am #

      I have the feeling some people are trying to blame the format for the SM problem.
      No game format can balance the marines, only really big SM nerfs can do it.

  13. Bij0rn February 6, 2020 9:26 am #

    If you need more “tactics”, you can use WTC (ex ETC) missions 😀

  14. Magmadroth February 6, 2020 9:44 am #

    I would be all for this if one of the existing ‘house rules’ for maelstrom were adopted – namely, objectives that give d(X) victory points are standardised IE d3 = 2, d6=4.

    • SaltyJohn February 6, 2020 9:48 am #

      Yeah, not a bad idea.

    • Faitherun February 6, 2020 3:45 pm #

      This would be my one complaint. Randomized scoring can relay skew. Make d3 = 2 points would be much, much better imo.

      • Michael Corr February 7, 2020 12:16 am #

        That’s pretty standard in most tournaments that use maelstrom.

  15. Montfrenk February 6, 2020 9:56 am #

    Another alternative approach would be to keep the secondaries we have now, with a few added and some tweaks, but pick five in total and have only three be scorable on a given turn.

    This way theres less worry about just drawing bad or unscorable cards, but armies will need to be flexible enough to pivot to scoring different secondaries turn by turn, instead of being able to script out the whole game in advance.

  16. Steven February 6, 2020 10:24 am #

    Whatever happens, the ITC needs to drop any secondaries that are based on wounds. GW uses wounds to balance units, the same as armor saves, movement, etc. It’s an arbitrary number that shouldn’t impact the mission.

    For example, Gang Busters. Inflicting 24 wounds to get 4 victory points is terribly balanced. Some armies have units that qualify, but it would be difficult to score, T’au Broadsides protected by drones for example. Other armies it’s almost a free win, like Ork Killa Kans. 150pts of models gives up 4 VP, how is that fair?

    Even Kingslayer and Titan Slayers completely depend on the unit in question. Some titanic units give up 4 points for Titan Slayers (>32 wounds), others don’t. Some are difficult to kill, others aren’t. Knights can give up 4 kingslayer points, but some armies don’t have a single unit that would give up all 4.

    Other secondaries are fine, like Reaper. Having a way for elite armies to fight back against horde armies is a good idea. Several of the board control ones are good as well, allowing armies to score without needing to kill is good for the game. There is no reason to throw away the entire secondary system, despite some people calling for that.

    The missions need to be changed. Right now, they are very stale and effectively 6 versions of the same thing. Looking at other missions (including the ones made by GW) could reveal some useful ideas. Having a mission with a primary objective that shifts randomly (either moving the objective or changing which objective is primary) is a common theme and allows for more tactical play. Other missions reward players for taking objectives away from their opponent or scale the number of points over time to allow players to fight from behind. Not every mission will work in the ITC format, but introducing variety would go a long way towards making it more engaging and interesting to both players and viewers.

    The primary goal this season, even beyond what I’ve talked about, should be to allow GW’s balance changes to work. Currently some units are not competitively viable in the ITC no matter how little they cost in points, because they are a liability that gives up more points than they can score for you. Bringing the format more in line with the standard way of playing would not only allow GW to make more impactful changes but also take the heat off the ITC.

    • zigzagzen February 6, 2020 1:21 pm #

      I agree I think Maelstrom should be given a chance. Is it perfect? no. Is ITC? no. However, Maelstrom lends itself closer to how GW envisions the balance to be applied. Using the vast and dedicated player base to help prove or disprove its ability to actually produce an intended result seems like a win to me

    • rvd1ofakind February 6, 2020 10:26 pm #

      Hard agree on the wounds stuff.

  17. Bearclaw February 6, 2020 4:50 pm #

    Give tactics a try! What do you have to lose? You guys are on top of the competitive scene here in North America – it’s not like you’ll lose all your customers for simply playing the game as GW intended. There’s a new edition coming within the year anyway – let’s do this!

  18. Dracos February 6, 2020 9:38 pm #

    Tactics and strategy are intertwined with one another. Strategic moves have the objective of setting up tactical maneuvers. Strategy is what happens before the game starts. Tactics are the decisions made during the game.

    This isn’t War College kids. It’s a game that simulates a game designed to teach true military Tactics and Strategy. Problem being our game has artificially limited space, time and resources. Especially in a competitive setting sometimes involving hundreds of games in a few days.

    Introducing more randomness, especially in the form of cards where sportsmanship issues are unfortunately guaranteed is not where this game needs to go. I’m not saying the Secondaries don’t need spruced up or made more varied and challenging, just not with a device that has been judged to fail a circuit as large as the ITC.

    Maelstrom might be a GW invention but so are their terrain rules, so yeah, no. Just because its what GW designed doesn’t necessarily make it the best for a tournament setting.

  19. JOSHBOB1985 February 7, 2020 2:17 am #

    Despite the improvements to Maelstrom missions I think Eternal War is more appropriate for competitive games.

    What is the justification for altering the rules of 40k to the extent ITC does? Presumably it’s an attempt to make the game more balanced. Are there any statistics that show this is working? It’s probably a bit too early to have gathered enough data on CA2019 missions for a proper comparison, but comparing the results of the LVO to GWs GT doesn’t make the ITC look good.

    • Zweischneid February 7, 2020 3:10 am #

      Not sure if it changes the overall balance, but certainly changes the viability of armies.

      E.g. Genestealer Cult is currently at around 46% win percentage in ITC, but only 36% in non-ITC (with non-ITC also including formats that tweak the book missions, etc…).

      Pre-Marines / Chapter approved, summer 2019, GSC had about a 54% win rate in the ITC, but about 45-6% in non-ITC (and ultimately got a nerf / point increase, presumably on the back of their ITC performance, rather than a boost / point drop as their non-ITC performance would suggest).

      Presumably it is an army that can take a lot of value from the ITC format, being able to pick the objectives they can camp, rather than have to expose themselves to hold more randomly determined sections of the board, and surgically destroy “fat points” units like a Knight or Centurion squad loaded with with secondary-scores, rather than “fighting the battle”.

      Other armies perform similarly well (or bad) independent of the format, but I am sure there are other GSC-style examples.

      • JOSHBOB1985 February 7, 2020 8:32 am #

        If GW are implementing balance changes based on ITC results as you suggest, then it seems quite unhelpful for those results to be based on an altered version of the game. Presumably GW would be more successful at balancing factions, and the CA missions, if that’s what people were using in tournaments.

        The results you give for GS cults are the sort of statistical evidence that’s needed to justify the inherent costs of not using CA missions, I wonder what it looks like across all factions. My hunch is that ITC missions aren’t getting the majority of factions win rates any closer to 50% then GWs are.

  20. ScotchRocks February 7, 2020 9:38 am #

    It could be a great thing if the ITC community decided to play the CA2019 missions as written. Then GW would end up with a much larger play testing feedback dataset showing how balanced or unbalanced their rules are, based on the ‘official’ missions.

    Has the time for needing to diverge from the GW rules ended? Has ‘new GW’ changed enough that RAW is actually appealing?

    Even if it turns out to suck, I think it could be a valuable thing for the hobby community to try for a year. “That season we all tried playing RAW missions again” could be a good learning experience one way or the other.

    • Reecius February 7, 2020 10:38 am #

      I think we all want to use official missions for sure, but it’s a lot harder to take the risk when you are the event organizer with real money and time on the live. If you try the grand experiment and it fails it means a lot more than just an oopise, you know? It can sink your ship.

  21. Sebastian Magnusson February 7, 2020 9:40 am #

    Secondaries are just ill-disguised paper comp and lead to skewed army lists, they need to go. Maelstrom is a good enough substitute.

    • Reecius February 7, 2020 10:41 am #

      There’s no disguise at all, lol, we openly state the intent of secondaries in the ITC format is to combat commonly seen units. It’s very clearly the intent.

      If you prefer to play maelstrom, that’s totally cool. You can do so and still earn ITC points.

      • rvd1ofakind February 7, 2020 11:48 am #

        While that’s a good intention, what results from it is that good players still manage to work around them and the undeserving units get caught in the crossfire instead.
        Eldar didn’t give away secondaries. Marines don’t give away secondaries. Both had that as a big bonus, which helped them win LVOs and other big tournaments.

        I know it’s hard to not catch something in the crossfire when there are so many armies and so many units. But it all rests on the specific kill secondaries: (form a daemon player PoV) kingslayer catching undeserving greater daemons, gangbusters catching crappy 30ppm beasts of nurgle, etc. I’ve thought about throwing out the kill secondaries all together or replacing the wound requirements with point/PL requirements/restrictions. However then the “oh it doesn’t apply, my model is 119 and not 120 pts” comes into play. It’s hard…

        • Reecius February 7, 2020 2:35 pm #

          Most Marine builds do give away a few very easy such as Gang Busters with all of the Centurions in the game, and often Big Game Hunter and Head Hunter.

          However, I understand your point and that is why we include simple board control secondaries to default to if nothing else seems appealing. I’m not saying it’s perfect but you should be able to score all your points regardless of whom you find yourself playing.

          • rvd1ofakind February 7, 2020 10:16 pm

            Ofc it’s “possible” to get every secondary point. However the problem is the ease of doing so. If my opponnet can shoot one unit and get 4VP by killing a greater daemon and shoot the rest of his army into 1 beasts of nurgle unit and get 4 more VP, he can just pick engineers (for example) and just get all 12 points with almost no effort. Meanwhile I have to pick things like recon, behind enemy lines, etc which not only take 4 turns to complete, they force me into positions I might not want to be in, they allow my opponent to counter what I’m doing.

            You cannot deny that my opponent’s job is way easier and allows for way more cold dice or tactical mistakes. Which leads to such armies winning way more – the armies that dodge kill secondaries and win more consistently.

          • Zweischneid February 7, 2020 11:22 pm

            But that’s kinda the problem.

            A single unit shouldn’

          • Zweischneid February 7, 2020 11:28 pm

            But that’s the problem.

            A single unit shouldn’t give up 4 mission points, 5 actually as it also stacks with the primary kill / kill more making it more egregious.

            i guess it is ok with Centurions now, because they are busted beyond all hell, but it unfairly punishes most units with a higher wound count (e.g. Talos, Bloodcrushers, etc..).

            If Centurions were balanced against, say, Bloodcrushers and would average out putting out the same number of wounds on enemy armies over a tournament, it’d be busted against them too.

            Same for Titanslayer or whatever.

            And it takes the skill out of the game because “you have to kill the Centurions anyhow”.

            At least make it not stack with kill / kill more, than at least people have a trade-off between scoring primaries and secondaries, thus having a trade-off there is room for mistakes, thus having room for mistakes there is a decision point that separates better players from not-so-good players.

            As it stands, it’s a “no brainer”, which means it doesn’t add any meaningful decision-making to the game.

      • Sebastian Magnusson February 7, 2020 11:55 am #

        Oh, fair enough, didn’t realize that was the open intent. So much for thinking I’d cracked the secret code lol.

        Still, whether it’s replaced by Maelstrom or something else I’d prefer to lose the secondaries. Especially updating the missions once a year with GWs own current rapid release schedule means that it’s at risk of being out of sync with what it’s meant to combat.

        I mean, who could have imagined we’d want to discourage people bringing space marine dreadnoughts with lascannons this time last year? 😛

        • Reecius February 7, 2020 2:34 pm #

          Haha, all good =)

          Yeah, good points but the alternative would be what? Totally generic secondaries? That makes you future proof but is also quite dull IMO.

          • Alextroy February 9, 2020 3:34 pm

            Maybe the problem is that it the current Secondary structure makes it too easy for players to build list that deny their opponent’s Kill Secondaries. This forces the opponent into the other Secondaries, that allows the opponent to also focus their list on taking advantage of that.

            Perhaps 3 Secondaries of 4 points each is the wrong formula. Maybe it should be 4 Secondaries of 3 point each. Same number of points, but more things that have to be done to maximizes your secondaries. It also makes it harder for your opponent to deny during list construction.

  22. Peter Campion February 7, 2020 11:37 am #

    The one thing with MC’s is that the faction specific should’ve be used, take for example the TSONS one. Get a point for every 2 psychic powers cast. In an army that could easily be generating 10 plus powers in a turn, no thanks.

  23. James February 8, 2020 1:11 am #

    Great article – and totally agree that testing yourself in game tactically is a lot more rewarding than the strategic choices made pre-game. I have really enjoyed aspects of the ITC rules set, but without doubt my most fun games have been with the use of Maelstrom cards, and the CA19 updates to using Maelstrom cards has found a great balance between tactical uncertainty and strategic predictability. Now is the time to be bold as ITC takes the next big step into the global spotlight as a spectator sport.

  24. Tim Nordin February 8, 2020 2:49 am #

    Great article, I hope this Will be used. ITC is such a good thing for 40k and by taking in the New maelstorm missions a whole new group of players would join the Itc.

  25. MrWednesday7676 February 12, 2020 4:55 pm #

    Personally I have no interest in seeing Maelstrom cards make their way into ITC. I do agree that a change in the Secondary objectives is in order. The format (imo) has too many Secondaries, several of which, such as Old School and Ground Control, are rarely taken and difficult to score.

    I’d also like to see an increased focus on objectives rather than kills, as I find the kill Secondaries tend to dissuade certain army/unit choices in a manner that stifles list building creativity.

    • Reecius February 12, 2020 5:26 pm #

      Old school is the most commonly chosen secondary, actually.

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