Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Mission: Unknown

Hi all, today's post is going to be all about missions, and having the tools in your armoury to cover all bases. Inevitably therefore there needs to be some thought about that perennial divider, the tailored list.

Let's talk first about that elephant in the room therefore. 

All gamers have an opinion on this, and whilst it's not a marmite choice, there are few who aren't bothered either way. I personally tend towards the 'don't tailor' side of the argument, since military forces rarely have all the tools at their disposal that they would wish for so it seems more 'realistic' to play this way. I do think its reasonable to have some flexibility though and so my preferred method of choosing an army list is to take a core force that rarely changes, and add task specific elements to it. That core force must be able to adapt to any mission situation. Agree with that or not, that's the basis on which the rest of the post will be written.

There are six missions in the rulebook, and we've played them all (some more than others, I've only played the relic once, but purge the alien seems to come up every other game). Some give bonuses to certain parts of your force, such as the scouring or big guns never tire, and this is where the sideboard approach comes in handy - if my original list is pretty balanced I can either pick a sideboard to maximise those choices, or minimise them if I think it gives up too many victory points.

That's not the extent of the missions available to us however, and that's really where I want to go with this topic.

Each new codex release sees a simultaneous offering from GW Digital, a 6-mission supplement aimed at detailing the type of battles fought by that particular race. I’m as guilty as most at not making the most of these missions, though mainly through not often having my ipad available on club nights. I have played from the Space Marine altar of war though, and I have to say I was really impressed with the variety the mission offered, a two-game mission representing the marines breaking through a defensive line before securing objectives for the following forces. This sees the marine force split into two, with deep striking units kept back for the second game, and the remainder having to cross and exit a 4’ board to help out in the second game, with points gained for wiping out enemy units on the way.
Another mission I’m keen to try is the classic rearguard, and the mission authors have done a sterling job here to represent this on the table top. Objectives (I’m going to call them hold points here given the purpose of the mission) are placed in each third of the table, and victory points are awarded each turn for being in control of those hold points. But here’s the killer, the purpose of the mission is not to hold ground, it’s to allow another force time to retreat, so after the first two turns, the furthest hold point from the marine edge ceases to be worth anything, as it’s expected by that time that the marines will be falling back to avoid getting disengaged from the retreating forces behind them. The enemy therefore must push hard at the marine lines to ‘get ahead’ of their expected rate of advance, and they get to recycle destroyed units to assist them in this.
The club campaign I’m taking part in beginning on Thursday (40k – It’s War) uses two of the missions from the marine altar of war and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they’re received by those taking part, as I’d love to play more of these mission more often.
That’s nearly it for today then, except to say that you don’t even have to stick to these missions, you can make up your own. I’ve had a go myself, drawing up rules to represent a battle fought during a meteor storm. It needs work but the first playtest went fairly well, the environmental effects not being so devastating that it ruined the tactical side of things but rolling for meteor damage did become a fun part of the game.
Let me know if you’ve used any of the altar of war missions, and how you felt they went – especially if they added something to the experience in your opinion.