I played the Warhammer 40k Only War Mission but found out that my lack of care when reading the Mission briefing lead to a very skewed gaming experience!
I’m a newbie where Warhammer 40k is concerned, but this weekend I decided to give the rules a spin as a solo game. I played an army of old Space Marines vs Orks. They were mostly old models – beaky marines and metal Space Ork Raiders, and mostly unpainted so I won’t share any photos here. Points were low – about 430 per side, so this was a Combat Patrol game fitting on a small 44″ x 30″ board on the kitchen table (I really like the new recommended table sizes – makes having a game at home feel a lot more doable!).
The Only War mission is the first mission described after the Core Rules in the 40k 9th Edition rulebook. The mission is obviously intended as a “play this first” mission for those new to the game, or as a standard game without too many complications. The main aim of the game is not to destroy the other army – although that may well help. But to capture Objective Markers. You get a Victory Point every turn you hold an Objective Marker – and there are 4 Objective Markers on the table in the mission. The game lasts until one side is destroyed or 5 rounds. So in theory the max Victory Points could be 21 (there’s one Victory Point up for grabs for killing the enemy’s Warlord).
The Mission is carefully worded. Probably too carefully worded for my little brain. As I was playing solo I perhaps glossed over the details of rolling off to determine who went first and choosing the table side. As a result I looked at the bit about placing objective markers and decided the most logical option for each army was to place the objective markers in their own deployment zone and then to try and capture the enemies once the battle got going. My way of playing solo games is to usually just play each side as logically as possible. Come up with a core strategy perhaps and play each army according to that.
So each army started with two objective markers in their deployment zones and were able to lay claim to them on the first turn and then accrue victory points at a rate of 2 per turn for the rest of the game. Although there was some movement on this later. The Space Marines left their Warlord to hold an objective, while a squad went an captured one from the Orks. The other squad tried the same in the last turn – but failed. So the victory points ended up being even and the game was a draw.
It was fun, but I was left wondering why the Only War Mission was written to encourage such defensive play. I read the briefing again. There was no rule against placing objectives in deployment zones. But then I realised that my solo gamer head had missed something very important in the sequence of placing objectives and choosing deployment zones. Each player took it in turns to place objectives and THEN rolled off for a deployment zone.
So you would have to be very confident in your dice throwing to place any objectives in a deployment zone. As you might well give your enemy an advantage. I am sure there is a clever method of placing objective markers strategically – I don’t know what it is though. But for a newbie like me it’s clear that objectives should be fairly central on the board so that either army has a chance to get them no matter which side of the of the table you deploy.
I felt pretty stupid after reading that and realising my error. I will give the Warhammer 40k Only War Mission another go soon to see how it plays when it’s run properly. But I do wonder if things like this shouldn’t be highlighted a bit more in the Mission briefing? Things can get easily missed or mixed up with so many pre game roll offs!!