Hammer of Math: 9th Edition Primary and Secondary Objectives

Note: For the latest objectives from the 2022 War Zone: Nachmund GT Book please click this article.

This week’s Hammer of Math looks at one of the potentially most significant changes in 9th Edition; the presence of primary and secondary objectives. 

Numbers are a common element to tabletop miniature wargames. Some numbers become more popular and others. 2000 point armies. Natural 1s and 6s. The 13 Command Points most armies started with when they fielded a pair of battalions in 8th Edition. 9th Edition brings about another number which is critically important; 100. 100 is the maximum number of victory points that an army can possibly score in a match of Warhammer 40,000. It represents maxing out the 45 possible points of primary objectives, the 45 maximum potential points from secondary objectives, and 10 points from having a painted army. Realistically you’re either going to have a painted army or not be a dick to your opponent, so the effective goal is 90 points. Note that this discussion covers the Matched Play missions and objectives available from the core rulebook. We do not have access to the Tournament Mission Pack at time of writing.

Mixed Aeldari army at NOVA
An army arrayed for 8th edition, now long outdated. Credit: Corrode

Primary Objectives

Primary objectives in 9th Edition matched play are entirely about controlling objective markers, meaning that you have more models within 3″ horizontally and 5″ vertically than your opponent. These objectives are all scored at the beginning of your turn during the Command phase, and cannot be scored on the first turn, which means that you only have four opportunities to score these objectives. Every primary objective is capped at a potential 15 points per turn.

  • Take and Hold is a progressive objective that revolves around controlling objective markers. Players gain 5 VP for controlling one marker, an additional 5 VP for controlling two or more, and 5 more VP for controlling more markers than their opponent.
  • Domination is a progressive objective that requires the player to control objective markers. Control two objective markers for 5 VP, three or more for an additional 5 VP, and control more markers than your opponent for 5 more VP.
  • Unified Advance is a progressive objective unique to the Lines of Battle Eternal War mission where six objective markers are arrayed in a line. You gain 5 VP for controlling any objective markers, an additional 5 VP for controlling objective markers on the end, and an additional 5 VP for controlling markers on the ends and middle. This is the only Primary Objective where both armies can score maximum points at the same time.

Take and Hold is generally used when there are four objective markers (occasionally six), while Domination is exclusively for when there are six objective markers. This means that two thirds of the primary objective points are available if you maintain parity with your opponent. In that context it’s reasonable to assume that achieving 10 primary objective points per turn is a viable floor for a competitive army, and that fully half of the available points (10 from being painted, 40 from primary objectives) are secured. In other words if you’re in a situation where you game is not on a trajectory to score 40 points from primary objectives then you are potentially behind the curve. This also makes the 5 VP from controlling more objective markers than your opponent particularly crucial, as they are both points you secure and points you deny your opponent.

Raven Guard Army
Credit: Dan Boyd

Secondary Objectives

The other half of the scoring comes from the three secondary objectives that the player chooses for their army. These can either score at the end of player’s turn, or in the case of marker-based objectives (such as Survey from the Outriders mission) at the end of the player’s Command phase. Secondary Objectives are chosen and revealed to your opponent before deployment or first turn selection.

Target-Based Objectives

  • Assassinate scores 3 VP for every CHARACTER that is destroyed; if your opponent has less than 5 CHARACTER models then you’re effectively reducing your potential by 3 VP per missing target.
  • Bring It Down scores 2 VP or 3 VP per MONSTER or VEHICLE model destroyed; the value depends on whether the target has a Wounds characteristic of 11 or more.
  • Titan Slayers gives you 10 VP if you destroy on TITANIC model, or 15 if you destroy two or more.
  • Slay the Warlord gives you 6 VP if the enemy WARLORD is destroyed; by taking this objective you immediately sacrifice 9 potential victory points.
  • Thin Their Ranks gives you 1 VP for every 10 models destroyed; every model with a Wounds characteristic of 10 or more that is destroyed is also worth 1 VP. Note that this is model based, not Wound based, so a Custodes is worth as much as a grot. If your opponent has less than 150 models (minus 10 per big model) then you cannot maximize this score.
  • Abhor the Witch scores 5 VP for every PSYKER CHARACTER that is destroyed, and 3 VP for every other PSYKER unit destroyed.

Loss-Based Objectives

  • Attrition is a progressive objective that scores 4 VP in a battle round in which you destroy more enemy units than you lost friendly units. 4 VP is an unusual number; you have to destroy more units than you lose for four (out of a possible five) turns to get the maximum of 15.
  • While We Stand, We Fight requires that your three most valuable (non-Fortification) models survive. Each of those models that is on the battlefield at the end of the battle counts for 5 VP. It’s possible for a player who goes second to keep their three most expensive models in Strategic Reserves for the entire game, deploy them on Turn 5, and get a guaranteed 15 VP.
  • First Strike scores 5 VP if any enemy units were destroyed in the first round, and an extra 3 VP if more enemy units than friendly units were destroyed. No matter what you sacrifice 7 potential points by taking this objective.
  • Minimize Losses is from Retrieval Mission and provides you with VP based on how much of your army survives the fight.

Position-Based Objectives

  • Engage on All Fronts scores VP if you have units wholly within three quarters (2 VP) or all four quarters (3 VP) and more than 6″ away from the center of the battlefield. To maximize this score you would need to occupy all four quarters of the board for the entire game.
  • Linebreaker scores 4 VP at the end of every turn that you have non-AIRCRAFT models wholly within the enemy deployment zone; to maximize this score you would need to maintain a presence for 4 of the 5 possible turns.
  • Oddly sharing the same name as a primary objective, Domination scores 3 VP if you control more than half of the objectives on the board (either 3 or 4 objectives) at the end of each turn. Given that all of the primary objectives are also objective based this is effectively doubling up on the core goals of the game. If you can achieve this objective then you’re likely going to win, as you’re also denying your opponent 5 VP per turn by virtue of controlling enough objective markers to prevent them from achieving more than the bare minimum.
  • Surgical Assault, Survey, Outflank, Surround Them, Ransack, Secure No Man’s Land, Vital Ground, and Line of Demarcation provide VP if you control certain objectives specific to their particular missions.
  • Encircle and Test Their Line score VP if you have units in particular locations on the board specific to the mission.
  • Hold the Centre is unique to the Lines of Battle mission and provides VP if you control certain objectives and have more models in the center of the board than your opponent.

Action-Based Objectives

  • Investigate Sites grants you 3 VP for every turn in which a non-CHARACTER unit with the INFANTRY keyword performs an action within 6″ of the middle of the battlefield and there are no non-AIRCRAFT enemy units in the same area.
  • Repair Teleport Homer scores 5 VP if an INFANTRY unit is wholly within the opponent’s deployment zone, performs an Action, and remains in the deployment zone until the player’s next Command phase. The requirement to last until the Command phase means there are only three opportunities to perform this task, and since an action is involved it can only be attempted once per turn.
  • Raise the Banners High is a progressive and end game objective based around performing an action around an objective marker which does not have any enemy units around it. The Raise Banners action is unusual in that it can be performed by multiple units at the same time (around different objectives). At the end of every Command phase (and the end of the game) after the action is performed (assuming the objective is not controlled by the opponent) you gain 1 VP. The combination of objective-based gameplay, persistent scoring, and large number of opportunities to score make this one of the more viable objectives to achieve 15 VP, but still challenging.
  • Metal Interrogation requires a Psyker to perform a Psychic Action within 18″ of an enemy CHARACTER; every successful attempt scores 3 VP.
  • Psychic Ritual scores 15 VP at the end of the battle if the same unit performs the same Psychic Action three times while within 6″ of the center of the battlefield. This is an unusual all-or-nothing objective which has the potential to swing the game decisively.
  • Centre Ground, Raze, Data Intercept, Search for the Portal, Siphon Power, and Forward Push score you VP if you perform an action near specific objective markers from the mission.

The viability of secondary objectives is wildly dependent on the circumstances and opponent. Doubling Attrition and Thin Their Ranks would make sense against a horde opponent, while against a Knight opponent killing a TITANIC model is a far more logical goal so you might expect to use Titan Slayers and possibly Bring It Down. If you assume that the floor of a reasonably successful army is 50 VP then victory lies within those last 50 points. A 5 point score is effectively 10% of the possible points you could achieve, and massive bonuses like Titan Slayer can put those armies at a major disadvantage. This makes choices that limit your ceiling particularly risky, especially First Strike or Slay the Warlord.

Credit: SRM

Wrapping Up

While this article was a little less math intensive than most, I hope it proved useful. My goal was to examine the actual value of VP in the context of the ‘floor’ of a competitive army and see where potential pitfalls and challenges lay. As stated before this article only covers the missions and objectives from the core rulebook; the requirements for Tournament Play could be different.

  • At the very least one should expect their army to maintain parity with their opponent, which in terms of objective markers controlled is approximately 10 VP per turn from primary objectives and provides a floor of 50 VP out of a possible 100.
  • With a reasonable floor of 50 points, that leaves you with only 50 points to work with from secondary objectives.
  • Opportunities to deny your opponent VP from primary objectives (in the form of controlling more objective markers than your opponent) are particularly critical.
  • Secondary objectives that inherently cap your potential score, such as First Strike or Slay the Warlord, are particularly risky.
  • Very few secondaries have a reasonable chance of being maxxed out, making every point you can achieve that much more important.
  • Armies with obvious secondary objectives that can be used against them, such as Knights with Titan Slayers or horde armies and Thin Their Ranks and Attrition, may be at a disadvantage.

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