One thing which was commented a lot upon at Event Horizon this year was my mission cheat sheets. This is something I aim to do for every tournament but it was the first time I took it to an actual event as a refresher. Apparently it worked... Regardless, I had previously used it to do some pre-game analysis of the missions and how they interacted with my army and vice versa. It was basically a way to minimise the amount of on the spot thinking I needed to do on the day with each mission. Problem is, I'd occasionally forget so at Event Horizon I took them with me and was able to refresh my memory before each game and once or twice during. This allowed me to minimise my holistic mistakes (and ironically, the only time I didn't check my mission sheets was Game 6 with that deployment screw-up!) and keep my goals focused on what I had identified earlier.
This really cuts down on the snap decisions you have to make and keeps you focused both before the game (i.e. deployment time) and during the game. That's assuming your analysis before the event was accurate at least! For example, on one mission which was Kill Points and Table Quarters I wrote down to kill off any weakened Troops as they counted for both mission parameters. Vice versa for my own. Something very basic for ensures you are in the right frame of mind before a game and don't get diverted off track during the game (i.e. charging straight into the deathstar). With the amount of comments I got on the packet I had with me at Event Horizon I thought I'd do a very belated post about it. Most likely because I'm sitting here writing another packet for a tournament this very weekend with Tyranids (5th edition unfortunately).
First things first. Sketch out the 6'x4' table with the mission deployments and placed objectives on them. You have a visual representation of what's going to happen. Below this outline the mission parameters (i.e. how you win/lose the game) and special rules. Now you have a reference to how you win the game and what special effects are going on (if any). This is really important for non-standard missions - it's really easy to forget the secondary or how to earn extra battlepoints if you don't play such missions on a daily basis. I do all this on a computer, print each mission off on an A4 sheet of paper and in the space beneath all this information, fill it out with pencil scribbling of how the army I'm taking to the tournament works within the missions and how it might fare against some stereotypical armies (i.e. assault based, deathstar based, MSU based, shooty based, midfield based, backfield based, etc.).
The most important part of this is to therefore understand the strengths and weaknesses of your army and be able to apply these to the missions. If you cannot do this, these mission packets are going to be relatively worthless on the day as they provide bad information. HUGE counterpoint though, being able to look back from a single game or a whole tournament and realise your initial analysis was off the mark (and how it was off the mark) is its own, very useful learning tool.
What do I mean by apply the strengths and weaknesses to the mission? Attempt to take what your army is good at and put it in the frame-set of the mission. Let your army work it's magic and don't try to force it into something it's not good at (i.e. MSU straight at a Deathstar in a KP mission). Very importantly, does your army prefer to go first or second in an individual mission or does this depend upon the opponent? If it does make sure to address it with relation to opponent stereotypes as well. A more in-depth example - it's a NOVA style mission with Table Quarters primary, Kill Points secondary and you're running a Deathstar list, you should be reminding yourself to keep your Deathstar in the centre of the board. It's the best place to have the majority of your points to move from table quarter to table quarter and because it's Kill Points, your opponent is going to be wary of engaging you or feeding you units. If your opponent is able to pull you off deep into one table quarter, that's a lot of your points tied up in quarter whilst they can spread out in the other three.
Secondly, consider general stereotypes for opposing armies, how they interact with your army and the combined interaction this puts on the mission. For example, using the same mission above with a Deathstar opponent, if you're running an MSU fast mech list, you want to ensure you have the ability to move lots of points to any given place at any given time but don't want to engage the Deathstar at all. This means keeping to the outside of the board and trying to strip the support from around the deathstar and use your superior mobility and ability to move Victory Points around to claim more Table Quarters. You're also going to try and drag the Deathstar away from the centre of the table so they cannot move a big chunk of points around easily. You're taking the strength of your list, applying it to the mission within the constraints of a potential opponent. Do this for the general army types out there and you'll have a basic battleplan outlined before you get to the table. Once you get to the table you can refine this to your particular opponent and the terrain there but there is less thinking overall to do. This makes it less likely you'll make a mistake and more likely you'll do what you set out to do.
Finally, and this really relates to the mission itself. Write out key points in relation to the mission. The example I gave in the beginning was about destroying all Troops in a NOVA style mission with Table Quarters and Kill Points. Little things like this, particularly in unusual missions, will keep your eye on the prize. Even if your analysis of your army, how it works within the mission or how it deals with other stereotypes is off, you can ALWAYS identify how to win a game and remind yourself about that. The mission parameters may be written in black & white on your cheat sheet but write it down yourself and how it's done - highlight it or do it in a different color. Something as simple as:
- hold more objectives - objectives in enemy deployment are worth more than yours, protect yours and push onto your opponent's
is a great way to remind yourself throughout the game the main goal of the mission. This leaves you free to actually focus on the tactics at hands as the basic strategy is written out before you.
This is an easy concept to execute and even at the most basic level, having such a packet on you will stop some silly mission mistakes and give you excellent game feedback. It's a lot easier to remember what the mission is about if you have it written out in front of you. At the intermediate level it's going to give you feedback on your army and how you think it runs - by sticking to your initial plans did things go wrong? If so maybe your initial thoughts need some re-working, etc. At the highest level this is simply going to cut down on the amount of thinking you have to do and allows you to quickly apply the appropriate frame of mind to an opponent's army within the paradigm of the given mission and your army.