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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tiered Missions: An analysis

Okay so with Centurion now a few weeks behind us and training beginning once again for Event Horizon (my list is a secret this time! I saw all those list tailorings against my Tyranids...), the tiered mission system developed by Mike continues to get playtime for me. This is great because to me they are some of the best missions (if not the best) I've played throughout my time playing Warhammer 40,000. But why are they so good? I'm going to put my thoughts about this down on paper which basically expands what I talked about post-Centurion in relation to KP but to the whole mission system. This also includes some basic tactics. I'd love for Mike to drop by and add his points as well (and if I link to NOVA he surely should!).


First off, these missions are Win/Loss based; no Draws allowed. For those of you who don't know how these missions work there are five tiers which are varied between games and deployment types. This uses basic systems everyone should be familiar with (objectives, kill points, table quarters, victory points + rulebook deployments), combines them and then jumbles them up for very different missions (we'll look at this why later). What the tiers essentially do is change the order of the winning conditions and whoever wins the highest tier, wins the game (though all stats are recorded for overall scores and seedings). Because there are no Draws, after round 1 you can swiss pair each W/L bracket which is re-done every round.

The logic behind all this: good players play good players in most of the rounds and it is hard to 'sneak' your way through to the final round by beating bad players. In the end, the players fighting for the top spots should be the better players having beaten other good players.

The Tiers

The primary tiers are Objectives (five; one in the middle and one in the centre of each quarter), table quarters (meaning there are four) and marginal KP (you have to have X [generally 3] more KP than your opponent) with the fourth tier always being marginal VP (you have to have 250+ more VP than your opponent) and the fifth tier straight VP. The basic premise of changing the importance of winning conditions around whilst keeping all of them in the same game means your list is never really going to be at a disadvantage. If your army is better at objective based games but the first tier is KP or quarters, you look to draw on the tiers which are to your disadvantage and move the winning condition to the objective tier. This means you really have to play all three winning conditions at once to ensure maximum scores for seeding and overall placements and giving you a better chance of winning overall.

Let's now take a look at those three winning conditions.


The golden mission for MSU-based armies or any army with a lot of scoring potential. Since the objectives are placed evenly across the board there is no advantage for any one side or deployment over the other. This is very important IMO for making a fair game (even though war isn't fair...meh!). All of the objectives are physically outside your standard pitched battle deployment zone but easily held by backfield units but if you want to be able to maximise your chances of owning and contesting multiple objectives you'll have to play at least into midfield if not further.

As stated before, this obviously benefits armies with more scoring units as it's harder to take them all down and contest all five objectives compared to an army with less scoring units (no...duh...). This is what makes KP denial lists so disadvantaged in these situations as they often cannot take five objectives without compromising a unit's ability to effectively fight (stringing it out over 12" for example). MSU armies can take multiple objectives easily whilst maintaining fighting fitness and is in fact, part of their design.

Objective based missions are therefore more favorable to MSU armies over armies with less units but are pretty equally balanced between backfield and midfield/aggressive armies. With an even spread of objectives across the board, not having a lot of units or an army which wants to move into midfield/an opponent's backfield significantly isn't going to leave you with zero objective chances. It should be noted however that some midfield movement is required or the army will be at a 3-2 disadvantage in objectives.

Table Quarters

This is the ultimate midfield game and is sort of the middle ground for 'normal' armies and MSU armies. Whilst each army style has their own advantages and disadvantages in this type of mission, they counter-balance each other. MSU armies are obviously more capable of moving units into and out of quarters more rapidly whilst less larger units are obviously needed to hold quarters and can be very hard to shift. So why is this a midfield dominated game? All the quarters meet in one spot: the very centre of the board.

This means the closer you are to the middle, the easier it is for you to move units to other table quarters. If you dominate the centre of the board it is very easy for you to move exactly the right amount of points into each quarter to make sure you own all of them. If you don't own midfield, you may have a shooting advantage but you'll find it very hard to re-mobilse into multiple table quarters if you haven't hurt your opponent significantly (unless of course you can move 24-36" and ignore intervening terrain/models).

Ultimately table quarter missions are a great middle ground for armies based on KP but are much more favorable to armies which can control midfield and are more aggressive in nature compared to shooting gunlines.

Kill Points (marginal)

Marginal KP closes the gap between KP denial and MSU based lists whilst not being so biased in the favor of KP denial lists (which are generally quite bad; i.e. Nob Bikers). It also helps even the divide between percieved differences in KP worth (i.e. Rhino and Land Raider = 1KP when the Rhino is 1/7 of the cost). MSU armies are disadvantaged by KP missions due to their high number of KP since there are lots of units on the board with transports to boot. Many KP advocates say the army design outweighs any lost effectiveness in these type of missions and they only consist of 33% of games anyway. However, taking a good list and having it completely out-classed by a bad list simply because if he kills six+ of your easy to kill units, you have to table your opponent or lose. This is why the tiered system and marginal KP IMO are good systems.

Lists with less KP can obviously be more aggressive in these types of missions as it is generally easier to get KP from an MSU based force as their tanks are numerous and lower in AV and contain generally small units which are easy(ish) to kill. A MSU army however may find it's effectivness reduced if it wants to avoid a KP loss as units aren't thrown into the gauntlet as readily as one might normally do.


I want to be clear here. These missions aren't the only way to play 40k and they are a step outside of the main rulebook misisons (but stick to them quite closely). Personally, they are a great balancing act between the different types of lists out there and over the course of a tournament, no single army should have multiple unfavorable match-ups based on the missions nor are the missions giving a 'leg-up' to sub-standard lists. If you're looking for a tournament with a clear and identifiable winner, these missions can readily give you that. At the same time, Mike has done an excellent job at creating a tournament system which promotes this and whilst catering for other types of players as well.

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