ITC Missions – a post tournament Review

Before we jump into the cancon battle reports I want to run through the ITC Missions and my thoughts around them, both the good and bad.

Firstly, I will say that I much, much prefer this year’s missions than last years Maelstrom random crapola. We all now by now that I do not like random and the more random something is the worse off. While this may balance itself out over a tournament, you should not have missions swinging that wildly (it’s your own prerogative to take and accommodate units within your list like this). I will give ITC nice props then for changing this system and bringing in the primary and secondary missions.

With that out of the way…

Primary Missions – are way, way too similar. There are six “champion” missions and they are all effectively the same bar the bonus. Gain 1 point for holding an objective. Gain 1 point for killing a unit. Gain 1 extra point if you have hold more objectives than your opponent and gain 1 extra point if you killed more units than your opponent. Each missions has this with no variation except for the bonus point (i.e. hold 4+ objectives, hold three objectives with characters, etc.). So effectively, 80% of each primary mission is the same and sometimes the bonus is impossible to get (i.e. you have only have two character models).

While the main rulebook missions are often atrocities of mission attempts, they do guide us and the most successful missions from 5th through 8th have tried to incorporate those components into each game. They also add different weightings to unit and army types which can help balance rules. Static gunlines for example very rarely do well given the need to grab objectives. This holds true for ITC but they have disregarded things like Big Guns Don’t Tire, the Relic and Kill Point / Objective balance.

I would really like to see these brought back in. You can keep a similar 1 for 1 concept but in the Kill Points mission for example, provide 1 point for every 2 units killed per turn. In the Relic, have four setup objectives (either placed or done by players) and a middle objective that can be moved but otherwise counts as an objective at the end game (you know, like we changed in 6th edition). In Big Guns Don’t Tire or Scouring, have objectives that are held by Heavy Support / Fast Attack units count as 2 points and / or have objective secured for the game, etc. Non Kill Point games require two / three units killed in the turn to earn the point, etc.

I like the ITC scoring concept in that the game goes on over time, they are trying to reduce the impact of alpha strikes but it is very easy to get 12 points just by sitting on objectives and killing a unit a turn (ignoring secondaries completely). There needs to be more emphasis on differences for the primary mission and a larger allotment of available points.

I’m also not a fan of always set placement of objectives, I know it cuts down on time (see point below re mission setup) and mission consistency (though this runs counter intuitively to the way mission set up is done, see below) but I think it’s an important skill to have and would add variability to missions. Even if it’s a set number of objectives are set and then more are placed by players (with different weightings?), I feel this would improve the blandness of primary missions. That being said, I acknowledge that set objectives have their merits as well.

Secondary Missions – I also like the majority of the secondary missions, they allow you to account for your opponent’s list to identify what the best way to achieve points are. Despite this, given that you can literally build these options into your own list and the primary missions variance is small, you can effectively go into each game knowing exactly what you want to do. With changes to Conscripts, many lists for example do not have a huge board presence so it is very easy to get Recon / Behind Enemy Lines for four out of six turns (and these also offer you the opportunity to not neuter yourself every turn, you have two turns of leeway effectively). What ends up happening then is some lists always take those secondaries and then will occasionally swap a couple depending upon what they are fighting (3+ RBacks? Big Game Hunter; three Knights? Titan Slayer) that don’t actually separate the play – you need to take out the RBacks / Knights for example or you’re likely losing anyway.

These leads me back to putting more emphasis on the Primary Mission; easily getting eight points from movement based secondary missions does not seem as potent if the primary mission is worth 40-50 points and not just a basic way of accessing 12 points.

How to balance this though is tricky as any parameter you put, players will adapt. Instead of 20x strong units for example, people are taking 19x to limit the number of points they give up. This is not a huge list change but shows there are ways around whatever parameters are put into play. A more restrictive list of secondary missions based upon the primary mission may be more appropriate. i.e. not having Recon in the Scouring where there are six objectives across the table quarters. If you are not getting out to the objectives, you are losing anyway and this should not be compounded.

Mission Setup – I like that ITC has effectively given six mission templates and then allowed the option for different deployments (i.e. 36 missions); variety is the spice of life. Games Workshop did well in providing three more deployments and we have an even split of 24″ and 18″ separations. I have no idea why the deployments are random for ITC missions. Their intention perhaps is for TO’s to decide on mission deployment for the tournament (though LVO had each game randomly rolled for so I do not think so) but the fact that it is identified as rolled for by the players has not a fan of me made. A combat army which gets 5/6 24″ deployments is then disadvantaged while a shooting army getting 5/6 18″ deployments is disadvantaged. It’s really simple to just set them before the tournament, even if it is random. Do not leave this up to individual players (as it is extra time taken as well).

I am not saying this is the worst thing, I think the more pressing issue is the similar feeling of every single mission, but I think having set deployments for missions allows that to be balanced OR while keeping it random, choosing rounds to be 18″ deployments or 24″ deployments (i.e. Round 1 would roll from Hammer and Anvil, Pitched Battle or Vanguard; the 24″ deployments while Round 2 would roll from the remaining 18″ deployments, and so on and so forth).

This also leads to different deployment types on different tables and while I know many tournaments have tables in big long lines ——- like so, the more efficient -l – l – l separation then puts people potentially on the same side and running into each other again. Not a huge issue as we as gamers have learned to rub butts quite well but something to add.

Terrain – is so important and big tournaments are always going to have issues with terrain (even smaller tournaments depending on who is attending and bringing terrain). It’s not just about coverage but typing, particularly given that terrain no longer slows movement except in the charge phase. ITC has made rulings with regards to terrain, most notably ruins lower levels BLoS which I think helps people with their terrain setup, but each board really needs three LoS blockers of medium size. ITC is trying to limit the power of the alpha strike and I do not think the Primary Mission does this enough but having proper terrain along with those mission changes and proper list building can.

Overall Thoughts – Again, I much prefer ITC missions over what they had last year, the main rulebook missions or the non-tested, random stuff that TOs can occasionally put out. I think they have done a decent job of making going second have its advantages given the outrage of the advantage of going first in 8th edition. It is no where near as potent as I think people feel and the missions are no where near as powerful as going second was in 5th edition (where 3++ vehicles could contest objectives end game). However, compared to the mission variability, depth and balance we had in 5th and 6th edition, these missions are lacking in those departments and I do not feel like I really have to modify my thought process mission wise, round to round. If that is the goal of literally having a blank slate of a mission, great – achieved; however, I do not think that this is the goal and takes away some key components of 8th edition (though to be fair, all fan-made missions / TO rules do this to some extent).

What I would like to see is more variation in the primary missions and potentially more secondaries (where’s king of the hill!?) or restrictions on how the secondaries interact with the primary mission to add more variety. ITC missions were a step in the right direction in trying to curb alpha strikes (though terrain plays a big role in this) and give more control to the players themselves. Let’s up the ante here and now make the missions more variable while trying to maintain those lofty goals.

I know mission balancing and design is not easy – I have done it before and there is always someone who thinks they could do it better or does not like what the missions propose. I again am pleased with what ITC have done compared to what they have done before and am not suggesting they change everything at once (I believe they are reviewing secondaries currently as Old School was very widely used at LVO while I saw Recon used widely at Cancon) but slowly tweaking things will hopefully get us the best mission set possible.

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18 responses to ITC Missions – a post tournament Review

It sounds like you're rating them "balanced, but boring". OK….that seems preferable. After all, a lot of the various GW missions (especially random stuff they come up with for their own tournaments) tend to be "exciting" but also are random and reduce player skill.

Yeah I'll take balanced and boring over inovative but potentially unbalanced any day of the week – especially for a tournament.

I too would take balanced and boring over unbalanced (and I do not think the various GW missions are exciting at all) but I think the ITC missions can be more "fun" but still balanced.

Personnaly, I like that all the primary missions are more or less the same. It's one less parameter that needs to be payed close attention to. I just think the bonus points are a bit ridonckulous (especially Crucible of Champions – let's not reward Primaris Psyker spam, shall we?). I also wish the "What's yours is mine" mission made you deploy the objectives OUTSIDE your deployment zone rather than inside it, but I can live with it.

The secondaries need a bit of tweaking but overall I'm fine with them. Death by a thousand cuts needs to be fixed not to be such a huge gamble.*

Having the objectives pre-set avoids situations where one player is stuck with a really disadvantageous hand because his opponent starts with more objectives in his deployment zone.

*By that I mean you get stuck with really bad situations: Ok, I kill 3 units… do I try to kill 6 now or do I stop? If I stop, how badly will I suffer in the next round? If I go for 6 and fail, how likely am I to get full points for this objective in later turns?

Well, the virtue is you get to pick all these secondaries based upon the match-up. That's part of the skill. Really, they don't even have to be used equally often. I'll agree that some of them are a bit too specific, but if it's not advantageous to you….don't pick it.

The problem with 1k cuts is that its kinda easy to screw up with it. It would be best if they went with cumulative tally but upped the req to 4 units killed for 1 pt.

Can someone please write and article about the blatant cheating that goes on in ITC events? At the end of every game you hear just non stop points rigging of people trying to get points for turn that they didn't get to play. I had multiple opponents offer me to take more points and they would take more points in the games I won… AND THEN they would get pissed when I said no!

Its a problem on multiple front:

1. Tabling an opponent gets points for turns not played. Even if you table someone with 2 minutes left in the round and you are on turn 2. While I'm all about a massacre rule, the issue is that the gap between a massacre and non massacre is ENOURMOUS. You see it reflected in the lists the top guys are running. You can't play the "score objectives" to win a tourny. It's all about killing. Killing everything.

2. For a lot of armies 2k is a lot of time. I've played in tournies for year. I have cheat sheets printed out. I have dice cups. I have movement trays. I play fast. I never made it to turn 4 at LVO and I played an elite army that largely doesn't deploy and comes on the board over multiple turns. So there's an issue…

3. The cheating really screws up Swiss pairing. Cheaters are playing better opponents than they should be which hurts the experience of all players. This is if you value a well paired well played game.

4. A fix. I think their should be points awarded for turns not played. Not full points but something like 2 or 3 points per turn. At least then their would be less incentive to cheat and corrects some of the massacre imbalance.

#1 isn't cheating at all. In fact, it is less generous to the winning player than the BRB rule for tabling someone- by the rulebook, you immediately earn maximum points, whereas ITC scores you less than maximum for the remaining turns of the game.

#2 is certainly an issue, but has nothing to do with ITC in particular. Lots of people still aren't used to playing quickly; if you feel your opponent isn't moving fast enough, you need to say something to them about it. If they still continue to dawdle, call a judge.

#3 I have no idea what you're talking about; I have never witnessed the kind of collusion you're describing in any circumstances, at any tournament. If you have seen it, I suggest you report it to a judge, as that is potentially grounds for ejection from the tournament.

The Champion missions do not award full points for turns not played; in the event of a tabling the player earns 4pts per remaining turn of the game (whereas they could be earning up to 5pts in a normal game turn) and do not earn any remaining points for secondary objectives (such as Recon, etc.) The issue of lethality in 8th edition is certainly one that deserves talking about, but it is one that is not tied to the ITC or to "cheating" (as most of the things you describe are not cheating at all.) It is easier to destroy models in 8E, and that's just how the game is now- if you find yourself being consistently tabled, that is a problem for your army, not for the mission; I know players who brought armies with 200+ models in them that finished six full games without going to time, so it can't be said to be an issue purely of the rules.

Puppy is right – I think you are quite confused on how the missions work.

1) ITC actively does not encourage tabling because you cannot get maximum points. I agree the objectives component of the game has been watered down which is why I would like to see some changes but it is not cheating nor is the difference massive for tabling. The game ending on Turn 2, is an issue.

2) Slow play is a game wide issue, not ITC. I think we as a community have to look at this but it is not an ITC issue.

3) So wouldn't the cheaters then lose because they are playing against more savvy people? I don't like that BCP plays 1v2, 3v4, etc. anyway.

4) There literally is. And it is not as a tool to eliminate cheating because what you are talking about, is not cheating.

I'm not confused. I've done plenty of tabling of opponents at ITC events of my own. I know the rules. I think you are miss understanding what I am saying 🙂

Let me be clear. Getting points for all turns for tabling an opponent is not cheating.

The cheating I'm talking about is in game that ends on turn 3, with no tabling, where the opponents then score it as if they finished the game. This is the cheating I experienced multiple times first hand.

1. True. It's not full points, but that's not my point. My point is that awarding points to turns not played has precedence at ITC (in the case of tabling).
2. I don't really think people are slow playing. I think most non tournament seasoned players are just slow. What makes it a big issue at ITC is that you only score points as you go. Many other events solve this with concepts like point differential or larger points based on end game state. 2k might be too many points as well.
3. @abusepuppy – I'm surprised you haven't witnessed this. I've seen it at a lot of ITC events. I saw it at Dragonfall in Chicago as well. All the guys from my club experienced similar things at LVO as well. They even made an announcement at LVO to only score turns played. It's happening on a large scale and its not just LVO.
@kirby No. Because winning overall or faction is based on winning & points. People are cheating to win. Remember a lot of people care about winning their faction instead winning overall. So their are incentives to fudge points even if you won't win the tournament.
4. @kirby – I think games that don't finish and don't end in tabling should get points for turns not played in an official sense. I think it would help address the cheating and also diminish the "massacre gap".

Well, I admit that I also have finished virtually all of my games to at least five turns, so there has never been any need to "fake" a score for later turns that didn't occur. I know that isn't the common experience, as a lot of people have had problems with slow speed of play, but it has not been an issue for me.

The issue with your recommended fix (awarding points for turns not played) is that it actually further incentivizes slow play- ITC currently _punishes_ slow players (unless they misrecord their scores, as you say.) A player who is ahead would have every reason to slow the game down in order to maintain their lead, which I think is not what you want to be doing.

But really, the problem you're describing is essentially just one of players not being quick enough. Players _should_ be finishing games, 8E is significantly faster than 7E; if they aren't doing so, it's because they simply aren't playing fast enough. Your experience has obviously been that awarding "fake" turns is extremely common; mine has not. It might be interesting to have a poll to see what other people's experiences are, but I don't think we can realistically draw a conclusion from two sources.

I hear you, but you also play elite armies. If I run into someone playing pox walkers (Like I did at Dragonfall) I should be auto excluded from a competitive tourny. You are vet player that plays elite armies. In general, I can get through 2K if I rush and play a good player. But I show up with color coded dice of different amounts, movement trays, cheat sheets etc and it's still rushed.

And 8th simply is not faster than 7th. It's pretty comparable. Sure it's simpler, but in 7th half your stuff was hidden off the board, half your stuff never shot and other half stayed hidden in combat grinding away. This edition, everything is basically engaged in most of the phases and you are often getting multiple phases out of your units in a single turn. I definitely recognize that I am rolling a shit turn more dice I used too 🙂

Another way to way look at it is this:

I get to a point where I'm a the end of turn 3 with 2 minutes left in the round.

I could totally say I don't move. I don't shoot. Your turn. My opponent says the same and we get through turn 4, 5 and 6.

It's not technically cheating, but both players pick up like 6 to 12 points. That's HUGE percentage increase in points.

I just think if that happened as a part of "official scoring", the gap between "fully scored games" and "partially scored games" would be closer and thus you would see that much cheating.

It's an ITC scoring issue. I never experienced this at tournies based on point differential or W/L/D formats.

Mostly, I just hate having these awkward conversations at the end of games. In my last 2 ITC tournaments, in 9 games I've had to deal with 7 times. That's crazy! In 20+ years of going to RTTs and GTs that aren't ITC events, I've maybe run into it points collusion conversation like maybe 3 times.

So it's a problem.

Well then yes, if that is occurring, that is cheating and against the rules. I have no idea if this happened at LVO having not been there but that's an issue for the TOs of an individual tournament; the rules are quite clear.

2) I really disagree – you see a lot of the top tournament games finish on time and without issue. Slow playing is very hard to definitively say someone is doing as it goes to motive and intent but games should not be finishing T2/3.

3) that doesn't answer the point re the pairing. If people are cheating across all levels and winning, well they are cheating then and its up to TOs to stop that.

4) As Puppy says, you are then perpetuating the problem if you award points for turns not played plus, it's very hard to award points for turns not played when there are two armies on the table. How do you determine who gets what?

By the same token, look at Geoff Robinson- he got to the end of turn 5 or later on every single one of the games he played, even against slow opponents.

While I finished every game bar 1 and very few games I saw also did not finish organically by at least T5 at Cancon. Some players were poor but they had reputations in that regard but AFAIK, the norm was games finished.

My thoughts as a relatively new player:

1) Having the same primary missions, and the same objective placement, does not bother me in the slightest.

2) I am neutral on randomized deployment zones but agree that there is an opportunity to incorporate set deployment zones into making more varied and balanced missions. If the deployment is set ahead of time, it may allow for interesting mission design options.

3) On that note, why not allow players to choose their own deployment zones? Maybe even spend a command point or two to pick your own deployment? Just challenging the assumption that deployment must be either randomized, set, and/or same for both players.

4) Perhaps, though, there is an opportunity to make the bonus objectives really distinguish the missions. You mentioned Big Game Hunter – what if each bonus objective expressly favored a particular unit type in the way Big Game Hunter (heavy supports) and Ascension (Characters) favors a unit type? Either by giving objective secured to a unit type, or extra points for killing a unit type, etc. If not the above, perhaps simply making the bonus objective more influential on the mission might be enough to achieve the variety you are looking for.

5) Lastly, I would really like to hear experienced players debate the appropriate points level for ITC missions. 2k (seems) to make for long, one sided, games that end in turn 2 and 3. On the other hand, you get to bring a lot of fun models and units in 2k that won't fit into 1.5-1.75k points. Lower points, however, seem to make for faster, more tactical play as opposed to more strategic play. Again, I would really like to see the ITC and experienced players challenge the 2k points limit assumption.

1) I won't disagree to that.

2/3) Choosing could be fine and it could offset the strength of the alpha strike currently but I do not think so, particularly if you tie it to a CP.

4) Yes I think this is the right direction but would need to playtest and see.

5) Nothing wrong with 2k, lots of games do not end T2 when built correctly and played correctly and you take into account the ITC scoring mechanic (which is not a perfect fix, no idea if it is objectively good either as I have not run the numbers). Lower points generally leads to more skew, not more tactical play, because you cannot account for everything. 8th edition is very deadly, games should not be finishing at T2-4.

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