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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

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Thoughts on Missions & Deployments

Initial thoughts, anyway.  Let me know where I'm wrong.

I'm in a bit of a fix, because I need to get the 6th edition Feast of Blades qualifier missions out in about... a week. That means a lot of playing for me, and a lot of figuring stuff out.

Luckily, not a ton changed in regards to scoring/objectives, and Kill Points- I mean *Victory Points* seem to be unchanged. Kind of a shame, that last one. Quarters never existed for realsies, so nothing changed there.

I was kind of hoping that 6th edition would give me a new deployment type to play around with, as well as fixing (old) Dawn of War. Instead, they nuked Dawn of War and gave me Hammer and Anvil, which is... well, let's just start, with:

Deployment Types
Dawn of War

It's last editions Pitched Battle deployment. There's not much to say about this one. The old standby, and the one we all know is balanced.

Hammer and Anvil
Deploy on short table edges instead of long. You do keep 24” of no-man's land, but you can expect that to be far larger if you're fighting anyone with good ranged firepower. The real effects of this?:

1.) If you're playing any sort of kill-based primary, ranged armies have an enormous advantage in this deployment type, for pretty obvious reasons. Look to cross 40” of terrain to get to the enemy, instead of the usual 30-ish.
2.) If you're not, then you'll still engage the front stuff normally, but the ranged support elements will be MUCH harder to strike at. Especially since you have far less room to maneuver around the enemy army.
3.) Deathstars actually really like this deployment. You can't avoid them nearly as easily, and you're bottlenecked and unable to push forward until they're dealt with.

In addition, reserves suck, as they come in MUCH further back then they normally do. (3 feet from midtable, instead of 2.)

This is not a good deployment. I am honestly not sure what the merits of this are supposed to be. Expect to not see it much in competitive environments.

Vanguard Strike
Think of this as Spearhead remixed. Diagonal deployment that puts players a bit back.

The interesting think about spearhead type missions is how they affects reserves, since units can effectives come on the board on the enemy flank. Outflank is also considerably changed, as it now allows you to come on your natural short board edge or one of the enemy's “back” edges.

Players can put stuff further back in this deployment as well, but it isn't as pronounced. The distance from the middle of the field to the back corner is about 43”, but the triangular shape means a lot ends up further forward, and you can't hide a while army back there very effectively. We all know this from playing Spearhead, right?

The big difference between VS and Spearhead is that you can deploy units further out on both sides of Vanguard Strike. I'm not sure how this will play out, but I don't think it's too different from the traditional Spearhead deployment. It does lessen the effect of reserved units coming onto your undeployable edge a bit, but that's probably okay. It means a broader field of engagement from initial deployment, which opens up a few more mission/objective placement options as well.

Overall, I like this one. I think there's a lot of room fro fun missions here, just as there was with spearhead.

Special Rules
These bear some mentioning, as they have a pretty big effect on the game.

First off, we have Mysterious X, where X is anything that is a thing on the table. (Terrain, rivers, objectives... I'm surprised there aren't “Mysterious Hills” or “Mysterious Open Areas”.)

These are right out.

Why? Because they're the bad kind of random: the kind that punishes you. It's cute and kind of fun to roll on these tables, but it's hardly conducive to balance. Imagine a game where all the forests on your opponent's side give him 3+ cover, while yours are 5+ and eat your men. That's... that's not a fun battlefield, and it's CERTAINLY not a fair one.

Same issue with objectives, especially the “1” result, which makes it blow up in your face AND the objective disappears.  (EDIT: It's been pointed out that this isn't true, though the objective does have a chance to keep exploding every turn.  Still bad.) You could lose a whole game just because all your easy objectives exploded while your opponent's didn't (and even may have given him bonuses).

Second, we have Night Fight. This is... interesting, but not as big of a deal as a lot of people might first think.

Night Fight works VERY differently in this edition: instead of rolling to see the enemy, it improves their cover saves, giving shrouding from 24-36” away, and stealth from 12-24” away. You can't shoot units that are over 36” away at all. Searchlights can be activated AFTER a vehicle has shot at a unit to remove any bonus from night fight, and of course the vehicle reveals itself as well, losing it's Night Fight bonus.

This affects different armies VERY differently. Armies with searchlights actually just don't care about a lot of night fight: you can move a vehicle 12”, snap fire at something, and illuminate it. That's a total 36” of illumination, enough to get you pretty far into the opponent's deployment zone. Rhinos are great for this, they let you illuminate all the stuff you want your heavy weapons to bring down and remove the bonus, while revealing none of your most valuable support pieces. Until the spotlight, them of course.

It does add a bit of durability, but not nearly as much as last editions Night Fight, which first turn often meant very little would get to shoot. Make no mistake, the Alpha Strike is alive and well with new Night Fighting.

The second big change to Night Fight is when it comes in. You roll at the start of deployment, on a 4+ the first turn only is Night Fight, otherwise, roll again on turn 5. On a 4+, it's Night Fight for turns 5-7. Note that this does not mean that you'll have “night fighting every mission”, as so many people are pointing out, 25% of the time you won't see it. The breakdown is: 50% of the time, you'll Night Fight first turn. 25% of the time, you'll Night Fight turns 5-7, and 25% of the time you won't use it at all. You're MUCH more likely to see Night Fight on the front end.  (EDIT:It's been pointed out to me that you roll again for night fight on turns 6 and 7, which I actually quite like.  Though it does mean you are actually very, very likely to see night fight in a game, if even for only a turn.  Bring those searchlights!)

It's kind of a shame, actually, I like Night Fight for later turns, as it means you can't rely on very long ranged units late in the game. I made a couple mission with it in 5th, and they were some of my favorites. It's a very cool mechanic. In addition, there's less searchlights alive by that point in the game, making close-up fighters all the more valuable.

I expect a lot of tournaments won't use the random rules for Night Fight. My guess would be that they set it, so that the mission either has it turn one, turn 5+, or never, and it's the same for everyone. That's pretty sensible, as it can vastly change the way a mission is played. It's how I'm planning to design mine.

Finally, let's talk reserves. Few big changes here.

First, you can only reserve half your force (round up). That's big, as you can no longer null deploy against drop armies, or fast-smash builds. You'll have to keep in mind that no units on the end of the table at the end of game turn = instant loss, as well, so don't try to create a list that has just a feeeeew people on board during the first turn. Learn to castle and take your hits.

Reserves have also become MUCH more reliable. It's 3+ on turns 2-3, and automatic on 4. A +1 to reserves is pretty enormous now, as you can then 2+/2+ automatic, ensuring those nice early reserves. It's not a bad idea to reserve some of your valuable ranged support, as it'll come in pretty early and do it's thing. Stuff like DS terminators also got more reliable, as you are now no longer 50/50 on a turn two arrival.

There's a lot to reserves, we'll cover that some other time, but it's good to be aware how this changes mission design. The game has become more mobile in general, and this is no exception. Since we can count on seeing reserves early, and especially DS, outflankers, etc, we can design a bit differently. For instance, we can put objectives a bit closer to the board edges, and no have to worry about cheap endgame reserves grabs.

Okay, finally, the missions, in brief:

The Missions
Secondary Objectives:
Slay the Warlord
+1 Victory Point for killing the enemy warlord. Random-ish and army Dependant, but not terrible.
First Blood
You won first turn? Congratulations, why don't you have a Victory Point in addition to your first turn advantage!
Maybe this is supposed to counter all those shooting buffs? +1 point for ending in enemy deployment. It's not great, favors assault over shooty, and fast armies much more than slow.

Last edition's Seize Ground. The only mission that was REALLY balanced in 5th, and the only mission that's really balanced this edition.

Purge the Alien
It's Kill Points, now called Victory Points. Victory Points are also called Victory Points, and they're the same thing sometimes, apparently, so that's fun. You get a Victory Point for every Victory Point you score, this is basically annihilation. KP had it's own problems, none of which have been mitigated by 5th, so it's kind of a drag to see this here.

Big Guns Never Tire
Seize Ground, and +1 Victory Point for every enemy tank destroyed. Objectives are worth 3 Victory Points each. Also, heavy support units can score, even if they're vehicles! Um, but they still can't deny. It's technically possible for both you and your opponent to score the same objective if you're both trying to get it with a Heavy Support vehicle. It's... interesting. If you're a scoring vehicle next to enemy scoring infantry and an objective, sorry, but they get to score it and you get jack.

The heavy support stuff here is cute, but not really balanced design. Not everyone has big guns to not tire, you know, some armies like nids have big creatures that get very tired and very dead very quickly. Others have easy heavy support to down (DE, lookin' at you). Some lists don't bring heavy support at all, and then you're just at a big advantage. Honestly, this is strictly worse than Crusade in a lot of cases.

The Scouring
Same as the last mission, but it's fast attack this time around. That's even worse, since a lot of codecies fast attack either doesn't see use, or is extremely fragile. Also, there seems to be nothing stopping flyers from scoring, which is, frankly, horse shit.

Play Crusade instead.

The Emperor's Will
It's... Capture and Control! Again! Because this is always a mission people love!

At least we have the secondary objectives now so it won't be capture-the-draw. This mission does, however, give the most first-turn benefit of all of them: the +1 from First Blood is make-or-break here.

This is actually an improvement over Capture and Control, but “defend a base while you get the enemy” mission will never be balanced as long as we have factions that can't both defend and attack well. It'll just draw.

The Relic
Okay, one objective, in the middle, and no really odd rules, and you can pick up the obje- oh goddammit.

Note that you can move with the relic up to 6” per PHASE, not turn. Eldar jetbikes are insanely good here, as are crisis suits. Also, you can have someone carry the relic 6”, hand it off, then have the next person move 6”.

These missions are always a bummer, as fast armies and armies that just clog up the field have a big advantage here. If you play DE at this mission, expect to lose. Orks to pretty well as well.

The big problem here is that it doesn't encourage aggression from both players. If you have 180 Ork Boyz, you don't want to charge the enemy head on. You want to grab the relic, walk it behind you, and sit in cover, making the enemy come to you. That's no fun.

Not a good mission. There's a lot of subtle things here that make it unfun to play, but if you don't believe me, just try it out. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Conclusion and a Gift
So where does that leave us? 2/3 good deployments, 1/6 good missions, shitty secondaries.


I've already talked to the Feast guys and some other big dudes in the tournament scene, and there's a lot of interest in my mission book idea. I'm starting work immediately. (I have to, for the Feast qualifiers if nothing else.) You can expect to see regular reports on that.

There is one obvious mission that I'm just confused wasn't in the big book, so I'll give it to you now. This is what I would recommend you play while you come to grips with this edition.

Biscuit's Peril
The Battlefield:
Place an objective at the center of the table, and one objective in each table quarter (12” from the long table edge, 18” from the short edge) for a total of 5 objectives.

Victory Conditions:
Each Objective is worth 3 Victory Points.
Every enemy unit that is completely destroyed, or that is fleeing at the games end, gives you a victory point.

Secondary Objectives:
Slay the Warlord, Linebreaker.

Mission Special Rules:
Night Fight, Reserves.

It's not perfect, but it's better than what you see in the book. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the missions. Think I got it wrong somewhere? Let me know in the comments below.

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