Friday, 11 March 2016

Tactical supremacy cards - review and my thoughts

Greetings all, welcome to a slightly different post for me on a Friday - a review of the new supremacy tactical objective cards. This review is going to be written in two parts - as I'll be using them (I will have used them?) on Thursday (yesterday?) in the first game of round 4 of the Tale of Gamers. Consequently the first part of the review I'll write having looked at the cards and trying to figure out their impact, and the second part will be looking back at how they influenced play and the game outcome. The deck is advertised as being a bit of a risk/reward with objectives being harder to achieve, but worth more points if you do.

First up though, let's look at the basics.

As ever with GW, the print quality is high, but I've already got an issue - these cards come in a simple card box very much like any deck of normal playing cards you might find - they do not come in one of the more chunky, high quality boxes that the faction specific datacards come in. If you end up using these a lot that box is gonna get worn very quickly indeed. Black mark 1.

Next up then, the size. The cards are the same size as the psychic power cards for 40k, and the warlord trait cards in the other boxes. That in itself is not a problem, though if I'm honest there's absolutely no need whatsoever for them to be that big, a lot of the card is just empty space and they'd certainly have fitted on the smaller size cards. The problem comes with the text on the back of the box, which advises that you can swap out the first six cards in the deck (11, 12, 13, 14, 15,16) for the faction-specific cards from other decks. Wow, own goal? Foot in mouth? Whoopsie? Whatever you want to call it that's a big cock-up from GW in my opinion. Changing the cards out? Yeah fine, the faction specific sets only have 6 unique cards anyway, but those cards are half the size of these, so there's no way they work as they should, because you can't just shuffle those cards into this deck and draw them from a pile as everyone I've seen using tactical objectives does (honestly, have you ever seen anyone rolling D66 and consulting the rulebook?). As such, you'd have to leave the first 6 cards in this deck and swap them over when you draw them. I'm genuinely surprised at GW here, this is normally the sort of thing they nail spot on, but in my opinion, this is a big Black mark 2.

Right, onto the cards themselves then.
11-16
These are simple copies of the 'hold objective X' cards, and are clearly intended to be swapped out from the deck for the faction specific ones. 1pt each. So far, so nothing new!

Comparison with standard deck: These cards are exactly the same as those in the normal deck, which are switched out for the faction specific cards

21-26
Again these cards are a simple enough 'hold objective X', with the twist being that the objective needs to be held for two turns. 2pts each. Something new, but to be honest, something fairly uninspiring. The need to hold the objective for two turns means that these are effectively 1pt cards, since you have to hold onto them for at least two turns - you can't draw it and score it in the same turn unless you get lucky (you'd basically have to be holding the objective the turn before just in case). Personally I think the best way to achieve success with tactical objectives is to keep the deck cycling so having to keep hold of cards isn't a great option. There's also the potential for your opponent to focus down on the units that will score these cards for you given that in five of the six missions they'll know you've got it, meaning you've held onto a card for two turns that you don't end up scoring anyway. Not impressed.

Comparison with standard deck: The standard deck contains 6pts in this section, whilst the new deck has 12. The standard deck just contains 'secure objective x' cards here though. I think overall I prefer that, since there is no greater potential for points in the new deck (technically more are available but they take longer to achieve), but considerably more scope to fail to score the card completely.

31-36
Now we're getting a little more complicated. Essentially you have to take these objectives from your opponent. The appropriately numbered objective has to be held by your opponent at the start of the turn, and you have to hold it at the end of your turn. So to start with we're relying on the slightly random element of drawing a card relating to 1 of six objectives and hoping your opponent actually holds it at that point. You then have to be able to move your own units into a position to hold that objective and take it from the enemy unit. Objective secured is going to help a lot here, as well as lots of mobility. I can see jet pack obsec infantry being extremely good at this, and inevitably the windrider jetbike units will also be highly effective. Aside from the slightly random nature of the opening conditions, I quite like these - there are several ways of achieving them, with assault or shooting armies equally capable. They reward you with D3 points though, which is a little underwhelming to be honest, I'd have preferred to see this be 2pts each.

Comparison with standard deck: The standard decks 31-36 cards are also 'secure objective x' for a single point each. The new cards do at least give you greater reward for your achievement on average (with a maximum of 18pts compared to 6 for the standard deck), but they are considerably more complicated to achieve since you can't score it if your opponent doesn't hold that objective at the start of your turn. I think on the whole I probably still prefer the original cards, particularly when a faction specific deck is used.

41-46
More holding objective cards (hopefully you're getting the idea now that obsec units are seriously important when using this deck!). These get a little bit weird though!
41 requires you to hold the objective equivalent to the turn number for 1pt. Fairly predictable, and likely to result in players trying to place objective 1 in a reachable position I would expect.
42 means you roll two dice (re-rolling any duplicates) and you get a point for controlling the objective equal to one of those numbers, D3pts for controlling both. I'm not a fan of the random score you get here, since you might end up controlling both and only scoring the same points as if you'd only got one of the objectives. Either D3+1 or 3pts would have been my choice here. I'm also not hugely impressed by the randomness of rolling two dice to identify the objectives you need to go after, but I'll let that slide since the cards are fairly random anyway.
43 is roll a dice and get 1pt if you control that numbered objective, or D3 if your warlord controls it. No issues here, but obviously a mobile warlord is going to be far more effective at achieving this, so will inevitably favour some over others (I'm looking at you, farseers on bikes!).
44 gets you D3pts for controlling two even numbered objectives, and 45 gets you the same for two odd-numbered objectives. Don't like these, they bring in yet more irrelevance to the 'tactical' objectives. It's plain, uninventive thinking and to be quite honest, I think they're just filler in the deck. 46 gives you D3+2pts for holding two odd numbered objectives and two even numbered objectives. Yawn. Why not just make it hold 4 objectives? Yes the points you can score are more appropriate to the effort it takes to achieve the card, but I still find it somewhat uninspired.

Comparison with standard deck: Interesting one, but with cards like hold the line, behind enemy lines, recon, supremacy etc I think I still prefer the original deck. Comparing the potential scores for each of the cards, the original deck has a potential maximum of 17pts in this section, whilst the new cards have a maximum of 18pts. I think the only cards I'd switch from the original deck for the new one given the choice are domination (46), as it's so difficult to achieve in the first place, ascendency and supremacy are probably harder to achieve than the new cards too, though are worth the same points so I might be tempted to switch those out as well

51-56
These are the 'purge' objectives and so basically require you to destroy things.
51 generate a random objective and kill everything within 3" for 1pt, or everything within 9" for D3pts. Okay, I quite like this, it's a little bit more original than most of the cards so far.
52 is very similar to 31-36, except you get to choose which objective, and you get 1pt for destroying the unit, or D3 if you destroy the unit and then hold it.
53 is pretty nasty, you get a single point for destroying a unit in either the shooting or assault phases (note - not the psychic phase). You then get get D3 pts if you destroy a single unit in both of those phases (so you need to destroy 1 unit in the shooting phase and 1 unit in the assault phase). Now here's the kicker, and where some people may debate the detail of the card - "if at least 3 enemy units were completely destroyed in both your shooting phase and your assault phase, score D3+3". The sentence structure here is exactly the same as for the D3 level, so you will be required to destroy 6 units in the turn to get D3+3 - 3 in the shooting phase and 3 in the assault phase. Now aside from the potential for people to misinterpret the grammar of that (and I accept it's not well written, but I have been over it carefully and broken it down before my explanation above) To my mind, an average of 5pts for destroying 6 units is a pretty poor return, it should be at least 1pt per unit (after all, that's what the first two levels of the card reward you with) and very probably more. It's also a card that favours some armies over others. Tau for example are highly unlikely to achieve the second level, let alone the third (honestly have you ever seen a Tau army, even one with Kroot, managed to win three combats in a single turn?). I appreciate that it rewards balance in army choice, but when some armies are deliberately weighted in favour of being unbalanced in that regard, I think the objective performs poorly.
54 requires you to kill something in the assault phase, rewarding you with 1pt if it started the phase with 3 wounds or hull points, and D3pts if it started the phase with 5 wounds or hull points. Leaving aside the fact that this is a direct copy from the White Scars deck, it's a decent card. It favours models that come with combat weapons capable of inflicting instant death, or killing the target model by sweeping advance on their unit, and there's no equivalent card for shooting armies, but other than that it's not bad. Clearly it favours armies with decent combat potential though, or lots of haywire grenades!
55 is a copy of one of the Dark Eldar cards, requiring you to inflict casualties on as many different units as you can, scoring 1pt for 3 and D3 for 6. This is a card that encourages 'poor' target priority in terms of effective board management, as you're basically scoring points for doing insignificant levels of damage to as much of the opposing army as possible. Unless you get lucky or have gone extreme MSU you're not going to have enough units to seriously hurt any of your targets, and the wording of the cards prevents it applying to vehicles unless they are completely destroyed (1 model has to be removed as a casualty, so taking a hull point isn't sufficient). Could have been better but it's not a complete disaster.
56 is completely board control related, essentially clearing a 6" zone from the centre of the board for 1pt or a 12" zone for D3. I don't mind this sort of thing, though it certainly helps if the centre of your board has something of significance there, such as a statue or a 'gazebo of death'.

Comparison with standard deck: The standard deck allows 21pts in this section as does the new deck. I think I prefer the new 52 to blood and guts, as destroying 3 units in the assault phase is pretty difficult, more so than taking an objective from an enemy unit. No prisoners is definitely more flexible than the new 53, even if the middle tier requires a greater unit kill tally. Hungry for Glory is much simpler than the new 54 for the same reward, though I'd probably take the new card in most instances over psychological warfare, simply because my opponents don't normally fail morale type checks. Harness the Warp is very situational in comparison to the new 56 so I'd probably take the new card there.

61-66
these are the 'annihilation' objectives, and focus on eliminating units from a particular battlefield role in your opponent's army. 61 focuses on troops, 62 on elites, 63 on fast attack, 64 on heavy support, 65 on HQ and 66 on Lords of War. For 61-64 you get 1pt for destroying such units in psychic or shooting phases, and 2pts for doing it in the assault phase, with no bonuses for destroying more than 1 unit. For HQ units it's 2pts and D3+2, and for Lords of War it's 3pts and D3+3. I don't mind these in general, quite often getting into combat and actually destroying whole units is more difficult than doing so with psychic or shooting, so I'm ok with there being better rewards for achieving these. I'm less happy that the 'annihilation' objectives don't reward killing multiple units however.

Comparison with standard deck: Standard deck allows 14 pts here, whilst the new deck gives up to 19. That's reliant on assault though, so for a shooty army the total is more like 9. This set is where the often exchanged cards exist in the standard deck too, things like destroying buildings, emplacements, flyers etc, so whilst the official rules don't allow you to do anything other than discard these at the end of the turn, most places will let you draw new cards instead. Kingslayer is to my mind the better card to get in place of killing an HQ unit, even if the new card does allow more points, since kingslayer applies to previous turns as well, so there's no need to worry about holding off on killing the warlord. I also rarely see much in the way of lords of war so I'd usually be swapping out the last card anyway. I can't really see me wanting to use the new cards over any of the old ones in this section.

So, what are my overall conclusions at this point, without having actually used the new cards?

Meh! You can see the two black marks I've given them at the start, and to be honest I don't think the objectives are sufficiently tactical to rescue the deck in use. Personally I would like to see the deck balanced in terms of applying equally to assault and shooting armies, and more importantly be flexible in terms of commanders tailoring their decks to their armies. It's something I've thought about before, and will be running as part of the tournament pack for my Hero for a Day event in August, where the player will be able to remove some cards from their tactical deck before the game - the flipside being that if they do so they must remove an equal number of 'impossible' objectives to 'possible' ones.

Let's take an example, you roll up the mission where you get a number of cards equal to the turn number, and on turn one you pick up one of the hold an objective for two turns cards. You manage to claim that objective so you don't discard it. Next turn your opponent takes out that unit as they know it's scoring you points next turn. In your turn two, you still have the card you now can't achieve this turn, but you didn't discard it so can only draw one new card. That means by the end of turn two you only have one card you could have scored, whilst your opponent, who for the sake of this example is using a normal deck, can quite easily have achieved 3 cards by the end of their second turn. This of course would only get worse if you drew another of those objectives in your second turn, or picked up an assault based objective for your shooty army etc.

The standard deck allows a maximum of 70pts to be scored if every card is achieved (which isn't possible of course) whilst the new deck totals 94. Overall I'd say the old deck makes achieving the objectives much more simple, and allows for a much greater cycling of cards, particularly if you're using the 'discard immediately and re-draw' method if an objective is impossible to achieve. The new cards are more detailed in terms of what must be achieved, but not really any more original, and in some cases are much less original and more random. Losing cards like behind enemy lines or recon is not compensated for in my opinion by things like 'kill an elite unit' or 'control a randomly selected objective'.

I'll update again after my game tomorrow, but at this point I can't see myself wanting to use these cards that often, the reward for the more difficult objectives doesn't really recompense you in my view for having more difficult things to do, or limiting your cycling of the deck.

Post-game analysis.

Right, so I'm pleased to report that the game was a win for Martin and myself, our Tau-Marine coalition running out 17-2 winners over the unholy alliance of Chaos/Marines from Mj and Ryan (the game was a tale of 4 gamers match, and this round we're playing doubles games, so we limited the effect of allies).

As for the cards though, I think I was pretty much right on with my assessment. We drew a fair few 'storm objective x' cards, a few of which we had to discard because we were holding them from the start. We only saw one hold an objective for two turns which also got ditched as by the time we drew it there was no way our remaining units nearby could hold out if they were being shot at.

Our opponents drew the clear the centre of the table card, which they achieved early on, whilst we picked up maximum points for causing casualties from 6 or more units on our first turn (not so difficult with 2500pts per side but would be considerably more difficult in smaller games).

To be honest, nothing in the game really convinced me that the objectives were worth the additional points. We did seem to draw a lot of cards revolving around the objectives themselves, although that would probably be mitigated against a bit more if you swap out for faction specific cards.

I may use the deck occasionally for a bit of variety, but I wouldn't say it's anything more than that, I think the standard decks are both more original and more tactical in terms of what you need to achieve.

Till next time!
TBE