8th Edition Missions:
With the advent of 8th edition of Warhammer 40k comes a new take on the classic “book” missions we use to play the game. GW kept the essence of both the Eternal War and Maelstrom set of missions, but tweaked them in some places. To that effect, we’re going to examine how those changes, along with the changes in 8th edition as a whole affect gameplay at the tournament level.
Disclaimer: the data in this article is drawn from the Inaugural 8th Edition 40k Tournament, hosted by Field of Fire Gaming at Event Horizon Games on 6/17/17. The spread of armies was wide (only missing Dark Eldar, Daemons, Dark Angels, and Sisters of Battle), but being the day of release, this is by no means a comprehensive examination of the game as a whole.
Context: We had 20 attendees, with the following factions present: 3 AdMech, 3 Space Wolves, 3 Necrons, 2 Imperial Guard, 1 Space Marines, 1 Blood Angels, 1 Grey Knights, 1 Tyranids, 1 Knights/Space Marines, 1 Harlequins, 1 Eldar, 1 Orks, and 1 Tau. The armies were all Battleforged, 2000 points maximum, and capped at 3 Factions.
SO, with all that said, let’s take a look the missions, and what armies stood firm each round. We’ll also postulate some ideas as to what those armies that didn’t do so well might have been lacking with regards to the mission objectives.
“No Mercy”(Eternal War Mission 2), “Front-Line Assault” (Deployment 5)
Kill Points is a standard element in any level of 40k, tournaments typically including it as a secondary objective in many missions. For “No Mercy” this is simply that, a kill points victory condition, along with Slay the Warlord, First Blood, and Linebreaker all contributing 1 point each. It should be noted that those three traditional secondary/tertiary objectives are NOT included by default with every mission in the Base Rule Book. For our event, we chose 3 missions with them, as can be expected from other events, but strictly speaking, they are not automatically present so remember to read you Victory Conditions.
With the Front-Line Assault deployment, one of 3 new ones introduced within Matched Play, this mission was quite a bloody one for some armies. The 18” no man’s land at board center, meant that assault armies could potentially close the gap to more stationary foes if the receiving force did not deploy much further back. Also, with the angles cut across the field, it meant that even diagonal movements could see foes in range of melee and short range firepower within a turn at most.
Our best showing for this round came from Imperial Knights and Imperial Guard, both maxing out their points of 15 round points, with Harlequins and Tyranids coming in just below that. The Imperial Guard’s ability to dish out astonishing amounts of firepower in almost any range bands, but the most critical being 24-36” range proved to be key along with their generally high toughness and wound pools kept any counter damage mitigated. Likewise with Knights; their 12”movement, along with a strong ranged and melee game saw the “mini-titans” to victory. Furthermore, with no current “Victory Through Attrition” effect, Knights only giving up 1 Kill Point each is a huge boost to the walkers as far as mission impact goes over 7th edition. Harlequins ability to move a blazing speeds and their innate invulnerable saves across the board makes sense to why they did well in this mission. Of the top performers, Tyranids were quite a surprise simply due to the horde nature of the army and it’s love-hate relationship with pure Kill Points missions. To their credit, the codex did get a huge boost due to the changes in wounding, and charging from Deep Strike/Infiltrate/etc.
As far as those armies that did not do so well; Space Marines in 8th do seem to struggle without transports/support as do Tau, with both armies in a gunline configuration falling to incoming fire much more than they can dish out in return. Space wolves and Necrons also didn’t fare the best, but much the same as the other two, the need for extra layers of protection via transports, and or the ability to ward off a turn 1 assault seems to be an early requirement in a viable 8th edition force. With that, let’s take a look at a mission on the other end of the spectrum: Objective grabbing.
“Retrieval Mission”(Eternal War Mission 1), “Search and Destroy” (Deployment 3)
When it isn’t killing your opponents units, it’s taking strategic points on the battlefield and holding them until the bitter end. “Retrieval Mission” uses 4 player placed objective markers, alternatively dropped across the board (with the previous caveat of outside of 12” from another objective and outside of 6” from the board edge).
Pretty straightforward, though they changed how objectives are “held”. They are still counted up at the end of the mission, with each being worth 3 points to the controlling player; but the difference is that to “control” an objective, you must have the most models within 3” of the objective. No more Objective Secured, no more 1 model holding an objective over a full horde of 100 models. Search and Destroy deployment was akin to a table quarters style of deployment, with a 9” radius no man’s land in center. This lead to many armies leveraging their deployments by going deep into the corner, or on the other side, setting up diagonal movement across the center circle and making sweeping motions over one of the adjacent no man’s quadrants.
Space Wolves and Grey Knights took the day with this mission, leveraging their army’s mobility tricks (Thunderwolves, Gate of Infinity, Flyers, etc) and aggressive early game playstyle to keeping their foes at bay and swooping in on objectives at the last moment. Both AdMech and Imperial Guard came in close behind those with mostly overwhelming early game carnage and maneuvering onto objectives in the aftermath.
Space Marines, Necrons, and other builds of Imperial Guard all struggled with this mission in some cases. Again, without that extra layer of protection/movement Space Marines saw casualties worthy of a Dark Library novel, and the Guard can sicum to the same firepower they can dish out, especially if they go second or are caught out of positions. Also, Knights saw the drawback side of their low model count advantage in the first round in that casualties made holding end of game objectives much, much harder.
“Secure and Control”(Eternal War Mission 5), “Spearhead Assault” (Deployment 1)
In our final round, we had the old “Emperor’s Will” style mission, with a single objective placed in each player’s deployment zone. A heroic last stand or a dash to capture the enemy’s flag, this mission style can lead to either much bloodier, or much more stagnate game depending on matchups. Spearhead Assault deployment was another 18” no man’s at the center line, otherwise it harkens to a modified Hammer and Anvil allowing some armies to hunker back and lob fire at the incoming enemy.
AdMech, Grey Knights, and Imperial Knights all reigned supreme in this mission/deployment, all maxing out their games. The unrelenting firestorm of the Scion’s of Mars along with the deployment type allowing their moderate ranged weapons to move into position quickly was paramount. For the Son’s of Titan, again, the ability to deploy a staggering amount of pressure via Teleportation and high mobility units coupled with their tough as nails defenses, when applied in terrain that blocks line of sight saw them win the day. As opposed to the previous mission with multiple objectives, Imperial Knights shine when used to hold a single point, or to advance on a single point in kind as little can withstand the repeated swing of Strength 16 Damage 6 chainswords.
Necrons, Imperial Guard, Tau, and Orks all had a rough time with this mission, due to a multitude of factors. In some cases it was match-ups or pure dice rolls, in others it was the focus on a small number of points of interest, and thus their opponents were able to bring to bear the full brunt of their fury.
Regardless of the mission, the deployment, or the matchup, there wasn’t a table I walked by that wasn’t roaring with the furor of battle. No one army dominated the event, though AdMech made the best showing on pure Battle points (the reasons behind will be delved into on a future article), the top spread was not very big. In fact, the middle of the pack was robust, showing most of the armies sitting between 15 and 30 points (in descending order, the Battle Points were: 41, 33, 33, 32, 32, 32, 30, 28, 24, 24, 21, 20, 19, 18, 18, 17, 15, 15, 13, 8, 7…. Average: 22.4, Median: 20.5). If you want a more in depth numbers breakdown, check out Jordan’s article on just that here.
What we can draw from this is that in this edition it looks like a mix of Ranged, Melee, and Mobility are ideal. The static gunline, unless it has some manner of high mobility on command, or a terrifying amount of damage output will struggle, as will low mobility but high quality firepower armies. Assault appears to be MUCH more common in this edition and should be accounted for, though if it’s a sole focus, mobility needs to be accounted for highly. One must also consider survivability in any game plan too, especially with the changes to Moral, wherein even units that slaughter their enemies in assault might themselves break from their own casualties.
This edition has changed quite a bit from 7th edition, and I’m still pouring over those changes, but everything I’ve seen has been logical and intuitive. Everyone will have to remember to look at this edition as it’s own, as thinking about rules in the context of a 7th edition standard has gotten myself in a bind more than once, be it in assault where I lost a unit that dominated my foes, or in thinking I was safe holding an objective only to have 2 measly gaunts steal it from my Rhino. Always remember, read the mission, read the mission, READ THE MISSION!! And may the Omnissiah see you to victory!