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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

6th edition Big Yellow Book Missions - Part 2

Following up from the last post looking at the concepts of 6th edition missions, we're now going to look at the missions themselves, how one can do well at them (consider this the basis of a cheat-sheet for a tournament) and how one might adapt them to a tournament setting for use.

Mission 1 - Crusade

The basics here are Seize Ground with the 6th edition twists. Each objective is three Victory Points and each Secondary is one Victory Point so the focus is still extremely on the objectives though ensuring you meet as many of the secondaries as possible can essentially net you an extra objective (important when there are an even number of objectives on the board). As usual, engaging enemy Troops and protecting your own whilst moving to and holding/contesting objectives from Turn 4/5 is the name of the game. Eliminating your opponent's Troops though isn't a, at worst, guarenteed draw anymore - they can still contest and then win on secondaries. It's still a good idea to eliminate an opponnet's Troops, particularly if they are offensively effective but keep the secondaries in mind and don't focus on that singular goal. In the end all you need to do is control one more objective than your opponent so if you don't have the resources to hold many, ensure you hold one and contest/eliminate the ability to control the others for your opponent.

With randomly placed objectives it's imperative to understand how your and your opponent's army works. A fast moving army is much more capable of taking objectives spread out whilst a slower army want's objectives clumped together. A backfield shooting army like Tau struggles to push opponent's off objectives and therefore wants more objectives in their deployment zone compared to midfield/enemy's deployment zone whilst a more aggressive force prefers the latter. Identifying the types of cover and firepower an opponent has in relation to your army is also important. I.e. Tyranids hate assaulting into cover and thus putting objectives in cover limits their ability to push you off whilst unless facing many AP3 or better weapons, Marines are just as effective (in a vacuum) in cover and out. Consider these factors when placing objectives.

Competitive Take - As always, set the number of objectives across games. It's not a very valid system if each mission is different from the first roll. Whether this is three, four or five objectives is a discussion one can argue over endlessly but as long as the numbers are the same for each table at a tournament, the important part is covered. There's also the set placement for objectives and opponent's place objectives - a big part of objective placement is lost in set placement missions but it also removes part of the advantage an opponent can have when there are odd numbers of objectives (i.e. three or five). Either way is again fine really but if the objectives are set rather than placed by the players, it's imperative that how they are setup reflects 6th edition (spread out, i.e. the one in the centre + centre of each quarter fits 6th better than 5th really).

Mission 2 - Purge the Alien

It's Kill Points! but with the secondaries again so high KP armies are less disadvantaged against low KP armies - consider them an extra 2-3 KP attached to your opponent's army. It's still a straight up difference between Victory Points (with each Kill Point counting as one Victory Point) though. Kill Points is a very different type of game compared to objectives - it's about finishing off units and preserving your own. Pushing a non-Troop squad down to a couple guys, particularly if they are special weapon free, is often the name of the game in objective missions but not so in Kill Points. Keep pressuring the unit until it's gone otherwise your opponent can limit your capacity to finish it off later. Do the same in reverse - any of your units which get significantly weakened shouldn't be thrown forward, even if you're up by several Kill Points.

Pressing when you have an advantage isn't always the right answer - if you get ahead by a couple of Kill Points, playing defensively where you can take advantage of any over-aggression by your opponent is often a wiser choice. It's keep Kill Points out of harms way from lucky dice. This is where strategy and mobility really come into play. On the flip side obviously if you get behind on Kill Points, look to play more aggressively to catch-up. You don't need to do this immediately - i.e. Turns 1-3 as you can often attrition your way back in but if the game is nearing a potential end, you have less to lose and more to gain by gambling. At the same time, don't over-extend and hand your opponent free Kill Points if your attack fails. Push more, but not stupidly so (unless it really is Turn 6/7 and that's the only chance you have to win).

Competitive Take - Kill points are still Kill Points and straight up Kill Points gives too much of an advantage to KP denial armies, which are generally the weaker of two army types. Not bad, depending upon the army, but not great either. There are some builds which are smaller in terms of KP options and still good but it's generally the KP denial lists which are the issue here (i.e. 7KP compared to 10-12KP for 'normal' lists or 18+ KP for MSU lists). By limiting the number of KP games there are per six missions (one down from two) Games Workshop is limiting this factor but straight Kill Points is still a system which needs a tweak as we've seen from tournament analysis. Based on these results a KP difference of two (i.e. only one more KP than your opponent = draw) fits in with the other mission parameters in terms of determining a winner/loser at a roughly equal rate (three was too generous). That minor change along with seeing KP reduced in mission percentage (16.6% from 33.3%) really makes the "KP issue" of 5th edition a non-factor and a great secondary after objectives. Be careful how often you use them as a secondary though - they are being pushed less in the 6th edition book after all.

Mission 3 - Big Guns Never Tire

It's Seize Ground but with the added benefit that Heavy Support units are Kill Points and can score (even if they are vehicles). And of course, secondaries. Having Heavy Support, including vehicles, as scoring options opens up an interesting array of options in terms of how you play a game as you generally have a handful more scoring units in your backfield.

As normal with objective missions it's about protecting your own Troops and denying your opponent their's. With the added Heavy Support concept thrown in, this is expanded and it's even more important that you ensure the entire Heavy Support unit is destroyed. Easier against vehicles obviously which are quite common Heavy Support choices but with those infantry options, don't leave that one guy alive - it's a potential four Victory Point swing. By destroying enitre Heavy Support units you're stopping scoring power AND getting a Victory Point through the Kill Point mechanic.

Otherwise as with objective games it's about getting that one extra one over your opponent but understanding the combination of secondaries plus Heavy Support Kill Points throws a potential two extra objectives into the mix for each player. With Heavy Support choices scoring, objectives can quite likely be even more spread out before and if you have good Heavy Support and an otherwise mobile army, deploying objectives in this way isn't a bad idea.

Competitive Take - The main question here is - having Heavy Support counts-as scoring options too advantageous for some armies and not enough for others? We can all point to some armies with crappy Heavy choices and even with Allies, this isn't really solving the conundrum here. Having them count as Kill Points (alongside Allies) I think gives it enough balance personally. Some armies may end up with four Heavy Support options and some may end up with zero - there are trade-offs to both and this is a list-decision. Although some choices are clearly better, with Allies you always have the choice of at least one good option there and if you take none and your opponent has four - there are four extra Victory Points you can earn over your opponent (whilst they have more scoring units). On the face of things, this seems okay though I haven't had nearly enough games to test this. Feedback here would be great.

Objectives are the same as Crusade. Better if a set number and better if an odd number to be set to confer as neutral a scenario as possible within the 40k paradigm.

Mission 4 - The Scouring

It's something different! Six objectives with different values AND Fast Attack units work like Heavy Support units in Mission 3 - they can score and count as Kill Points (worth one Victory Point each). I again like the addition of bringing in non-Troops as scoring options which also count as Kill Points - two things going on at once though we again have to ask ourselves if some armies aren't disadvantaged here. Beyond this it's like a regular objectives mission with more scoring options/ways to generate more Victory Points.

The same concepts as in Big Guns Never Tire in relation to Heavy Support apply here to Fast Attack. Being able to shoot down such units denies your opponent the utility of a scoring unit with good firepower & mobility and provides you with a Victory Point through the Kill Point mechanic. Unlike Heavy Support though, Fast Attack units are often a lot more aggressive and thus less likely to live until late game and can therefore give your opponent easy Victory Points. Using such options differently or at the least, more defensively, can limit this and still allow such units to be effective and force the opponent to exert some more effort to destroy them and gain those Kill Points.
Since each objective is valued differently, it's important to identify where the greatest collection of Victory Points is. For example, if there's a grouping of three objectives but they are the 2,2,1 values compared to a grouping of two objectives at 4,3 values, the grouping of two is more important. Identify those more important objectives and ensure you're doing your best to take them and/or deny them to your opponent. Sometimes this means all the good objectives are on your opponent's side - if this is the case you need to be more aggressive to keep them off such come end-game and hopefully have the other ones in your pocket. If you have all the good ones on your side, you can play more defensively and look to keep your opponent off these objectives.

Remember as well, the secondaries plus Kill Points for Fast Attack gives you a potential extra six Victory Points from non-objective sources. Whether you are placed in an advantageous or disadvantageous position, it's still important to try and limit the amount of extra VP your opponent can earn by protecting Fast Attack units, your Warlord and the ability for your opponent to move into your DZ. All of these combined could help a position in a poor board position based on random objective values grab a win whilst in a more balanced situation it can tip the tables beware.

Competitive Take - Again, I like the Fast Attack scoring + Kill Point concept though not sure if this is balanced across armies. One would think those with poor Fast Attack choices deny their opponent extra VP and have more VP accessible to them even though the opponent has more scoring options. Etc. Etc. - Same as Big Guns Never Tire really. The major issue with this mission though is the random nature of objectives - you can end up with one side stacked and the other side barren in terms of VP accessible. A simple competitive way to fix this is force the four into middle of the table and allow the players to both place a three and two valued objective with a potential roll-off for the one objective (or remove it). I'm sure this would satisfy many individuals to see in a NOVA format in terms of having a game where they can deploy objectives rather than working in the usual star formation.

Same again for Mission 3 re: Fast Attack scoring. Would love to hear feedback in terms of how this has come across balance wise so-far for you in 6th and ways to implement this into W/L style of games.

Mission 5 - The Emperor's Will

It's modified Capture & Control...yay. Like before, this is very nearly a draw mission even though the objectives cannot be placed within 6" of a board edge, it's still very easy for both armies to defend such objectives. Same deal though goes with Troops - if you are able to pick off all your opponent's Troops, they cannot score an objective. This is harder in a one objective mission where each opponent can place it as they can put it in a position where a unit cannot be seen. This makes the secondaries VERY important as if both armies end up controlling their own objective, whoever gets more of the secondaries is usually in a very good position. If going first then, getting First Blood is of top priority whilst if going second, look to deny your opponent this option. Even if your army is crappy at shooting, if you win the roll-off it's not a bad idea to go first here to simply deny your opponent this option.

Otherwise preserving your Warlord and stopping your opponent from getting any scoring units in your entire DZ is the name of the game (whilst defending your objective of course). At the same time, putting pressure on your opponent to get at their Warlord and into their DZ (and getting their objective) can see swings of VP in either direction. How you go about this depends a lot upon your army. If you're running a non-aggressive shooting list like Tau or IG, you can win the game on objectives by destroying all of their Troops or making it so difficult for your opponent to get to your objective, their army disintergrates trying. All the while you pressure their Warlord and protect yours to try and leg up in that Secondary department. A more aggressive army might look to simply bottle their opponent's army in their own DZ and thus win on Linebreaker whilst keeping their Warlord in the back to avoid it being shot to pieces, etc.

Any options which can come in later game or not from the controlling player's table edge can be a big deciding factor in contesting objectives late. Deep-strikers, flyers, outflankers, pop-ups, etc. and reserve delaying are all really good ways to get onto an objective later in the game and stop the opponent from scoring it. Even fast units speeding on from your table edge can get across that gap within two turns. If your opponent has these options look to block access to a greater area around the objective to make such tactics risky and if you have them yourself, look to make space for such units where they can cause the most harm. This may not be going after the objective but rather diverting the main opposing force's attention from your own holding force, etc.

Competitive Take - It's too easy to draw this mission and more secondaries (and secondaries which aren't so advantageous to individual armies) are required to make this less of a draw. Otherwise forcing the objectives to be placed in a different location (i.e. edge of DZ, outside of DZ, etc.) or allowing the enemy to deny the objective easier are ways to make the game more dynamic (i.e. all enemy units are denial units, 6" denial range, etc.). Adding in more objectives outside of the player's Deployment Zones also helps this, particularly if objectives within deployment zones aren't worth as much for the controlling player, etc. The concept needs to be worked with something else to avoid the tendency of this mission to result in a draw.

Mission 6 - The Relic

Another completely new mechanic. The Relic is a movable objective - so the usual applications apply for denying the objective and only Troops units can move the objective. To win the Relic primary you need to have the Relic in your possession (not just within 3" with no denial units) at the game end. This Relic is worth three Victory Points like a normal objective which puts it on equal footing in terms of how many Victory Points one can accumulate with the Secondaries. This makes the Secondaries very important - if you own the Relic and get one secondary, you cannot lose. On the flip side, if you don't own the Relic but manage to acheive all three secondaries and deny all three to your opponent, you still force a draw. With only one objective in play as well, it's a lot easier to draw on the objective primary and thus the win will be decided on who wins in terms of secondaries. They are very important.

Again, Troops here are key and importantly, fast Troops (hello turbo-boosting options!). The ability to quickly get to the Relic and ferry it back into your army is a huge advantage which makes going first, unlike in many objective games, an attractive proposition. At the same time, Scouts, Infiltrators and other fast moving units which don't necessarily score but can block access to the Relic are important as well. Even if you don't have a fast Troop you can move other units up to sit around the objective and protect it for your slower moving Troops. Be careful on both sides here though as this can lead to over-extension and the opposing player can capitalise on this. At the end of the day, who has the Relic at the end of the game sits in a better position so if you're going to expose your army just to get the Relic Turn 1, a long-term game plan is often a better idea. 

Competitive Take - One objective is bad but the moveable bit about it is interesting as is weighing one objective more than the other. Running a Relic type objective in a five objective mission where it's moveable and worth more than the other objectives might be amore viable approach and is going to limit the number of draws this mission would get. It does reduce the importance of the secondaries however so ensuring good secondaries or more secondaries is imporant to keep that balance between the two forces.

Conclusion -

All in all, some decent concepts and okay missions but they aren't really 'out of the box' ready for serious tournament play. For the small local, one-dayer and the like, ya they're not too bad. For regular play, again not too bad, particularly if you get a silly match-up and are able to do some quick fixes with your opponent (i.e. 1,2,2 objectives and 3,3,4 objectives on opposite sides of the board in Scourging). Overall draws are less likely which is good but the tiered system is still the best in terms of producing a straight-up W/L system and the factors explained in the previous post and the artificial constraits in these missions should really be brought into that system as well - we want everything to be as close to 6th as possible whilst being a valid tournament. Remember, at the end of the day we want skill to be the primary determining factor rather than a lot of luck in either direction. Not the only factor, but the primary.

I like some of the change-ups such as scoring Fast Attack/Heavy Support in Missions 3/4 which also count as Kill Points. Even just modifying this to Troops - there's some give and take there. The inclusion of secondaries is also a welcome change - it's an acknowledgement, however minor, that producing results other than draws are good. Adding in some more secondaries so there's greater equality in balance here is also important. Anyway, hopefully this information can start some good cheat-sheets for basic 6th edition BYB play and I'd love to hear feedback on ideas for incorporating these concepts into tiered missions for W/L play.

Next up, the deployments.

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