In the past we’ve covered Combat Patrol and Incursion gameplay and missions for the Core Book and Chapter Approved: Grand Tournament 2020 as it relates to semi-competitive mission gameplay. This is all well and good, but another small game type screams out for some attention: Crusade! In previous editions, Narrative Play tended to be looked down upon by “more serious” players, as it was a bit of a throw-away which lead to a lot of unstructured weirdness. In 9th edition, Games Workshop invested a good amount of effort to foster fun narrative games between friends, family, and the general gaming community by providing a surprisingly neat campaign mechanic. In fact they’ve already prepared their first expansion, Crusade: Beyond The Veil, which we’ve been pretty positive about.
The first thing that should probably be discussed is the obvious: Crusade offers players the opportunity to power-game above and beyond Matched Play based on how it handles stratagem-based unit upgrades, unit traits, and relics. If you wanted to, over the course of a handful of games you can start to make some absolutely ridiculous stuff. Unless you and your friends have discussed this at length and decided that players are going to create absolute monsters to throw at each other, this should be avoided. DO NOT BE “THAT” PLAYER. Have ongoing conversations with your opponents before and after games, and always make sure you’re communicating what your expectations are and the types of experiences you want to cultivate.
As the name implies, Narrative Play is intended for a somewhat cohesive narrative experience which generally means having fun fielding units you wouldn’t otherwise field in a Matched game. Have models that you’d created but sat on the shelves for years because their rules aren’t great? Bring them along! The heart of 9th edition Narrative Play is experimentation and story-telling around the results. This doesn’t mean that you have to create a “bad” army: don’t feel the need to handicap yourself, but consider using this as an opportunity to create flavorful builds that are an extension of your personal style.
To get the most of out of the system, it’s recommended that you and the other players invest some time in building your roster and writing out some narrative fluff. The Narrative Forge has covered Crusade pretty extensively over the months and we strongly recommend you give these a read if you’re planning on jumping into some Crusade action:
- The Narrative Forge: A Review of 9th Edition’s Crusade Mode
- The Narrative Forge: Running a Crusade Campaign
- The Narrative Forge: Building Our Crusade Armies
- They See Me Crusadin’, They Hatin’: An Investigation of The Crusade Gameplay Loop
In addition, Charlie B has offered to save us some sanity and made an easy-to-use Crusade Roster online document. Having used it ourselves we can vouch that it is super handy, especially since you can then open your doc up to your friends in read-only mode so everyone can keep tabs on each other (and scheme/swear vengeance).
While Crusade spans the gamut from Combat Patrol (25PL/500pts) to Onslaught (150PL/3000pts), this article is going to stick to the “little” missions. Aside from keeping with the general theme, a sizeable amount of your Crusade games are going to be had at this level as players start at the bottom and slowly work their way up. Depending on how often you play, by the time you have a fully fleshed-out Strike Force (100PL/2000pts) army you’re probably going to have had dozens of battles under your belt, so it’s good to build a strong foundation by understanding how these Narrative missions play and how to work with your force around them.
Below are the missions for Combat Patrol and Incursion from the Core Book. Note that we’ll cover Beyond the Veil missions in a future update.
Combat Patrol: Sweep And Clear
PierreTheMime: This is pretty much as close to a “classic” mission as you’re going to find. Simple and to-the-point, you’ve got four objectives placed around the field and you’re looking to capture as many as possible while shoving your opponent off theirs. One thing that makes this a little interesting is that it incentivizes the ability to claim your opponent’s deployment zone objective for bonus victory points. Since you’re playing at 25PL/500pts both players are going to have their units spread pretty thin to cover ground; having a unit or two available to appear via a deep strike reserve or just putting them into Strategic Reserves might be key to locking things up if you think you can sneak on and hold the point reliably. This is a great starter mission if you’re looking to get into Crusade because the Victor Bonus is pretty tame, so losing while you learn isn’t going to benefit the other player significantly.
Beanith: This is hands-down my favorite mission to use to teach someone 9th edition which I’ve mentioned earlier. At 500 points you won’t have too much on the board so the mission rule Secure and Sweep is great as you can move units off objectives and still hold them. But be careful as you will lose them as soon your opponent can grab control of it in a later phase which denies you those lovely Victory Points. Good news is nine times out of ten you’ll have a turn to try and flip the objective back into your control before they can score it… the tenth time a particularly tricksy opponent however could pile in/consolidate onto unattended objectives in your fight phase and invoke the magical word “yoink”
Objective placement is also interesting as since the Deployment Zones aren’t chosen until after all the objectives are placed starting with the Attacker, you could conceivably have a chance to place both Deployment Zone objectives. Do you place both up close for a big brawl in the centre or do you bury them deep in the back behind terrain to keep them safeish? And you also need to balance all that with the fact the Defender gets to choose the Deployment Zone afterwards as well.
Combat Patrol: Supply Drop
Beanith: Not exactly thrilled with this one as the random nature of the second and third objective placement and which ones are removed in turns 4 and 5 make this mission far too random for my liking. The Defender can stick an objective deep in the back of a deployment zone that they get to choose, castle up and hope that they get extra lucky with their 33% chance of having the game winning objective on the 5th turn with 65 Victory Points to 55 Victory Points. And with the scoring at the end of the Command Phase, the person who goes first that round entire plan boils down to “Did I just score 30 points or do I need to deny my opponent scoring 30 points?” Bah, this mission is one I think could be improved just by moving the scoring from the Command Phase to the Morale Phase at the end of the turn.
I immediately thought this could be the Monty Hall problem and then I remembered I only know about that from Brooklyn 99 and would almost certainly be wrong. Thankfully we have Primaris Kevin and his power of Math to help me here!
PierreTheMime: I agree, the random nature of this mission makes it a little tricky and/or frustrating. If you have an army that can manage good board control it’s a matter of juggling things and making sure you can cover the spread (or at least deny your opponent). If you’ve been whittled down to just a few units left or for whatever reason can only hold one of the two objectives on turn four, you’re basically a coin-flip away from a loss and there’s little you can do about it. In a game of tactics/strategy, losing due to no fault of your own might leave one a bit sour. Then again, it is a 500pt narrative match and you’re in a very specific scenario in this case so maybe just ditch the salt and move on? I do think it should be fixed though.
Combat Patrol: Assassinate
PierreTheMime: This one, in my opinion, is really cool. This is the mission where the you’ve been tasked with killing the enemy’s leader at all costs or your biggest, baddest Warlord demands satisfaction from the opponents army. Defender, do you have a tough leader that can throw its weight around? Fantastic, you’re going to have a lot of fun. Oh… you have… a Company Commander? An Ethereal? …Oh dear.
In all seriousness this is an interesting and Crusade-unique mission that plays to Narrative’s strengths. In a refreshing change of pace, you know who’s going first and the Defender (for basically the first time in 9th Edition) actually wants to DEFEND. Play this on a table with a good deal of terrain for a fun manhunt-style mission. Both sides of this mission feels fun to play and it can lead to some really neat plays. In terms of point-scoring there is a little bit of an imbalance here toward the Defender, as their primary objectives are easier to score. As someone whose Lord of Contagion has absolutely dominated some of these games, a strong Defender can rack up points pretty quickly. If you do have a weak Warlord and get Defender, you’ll probably be stuck hiding on this one (don’t let the player goad you out for the “honorable” fight if you’re just going to die and give up the game). Considering how fast Combat Patrol missions play, consider getting in two games of this and reversing Attacker/Defender for added fun.
Beanith: Sounds like if you had a Warlord with the right stratagem or relic like a Wraithseer with the Phoenix Gem or a Necron with the Resurrection Protocols Stratagem, you could have a veritable Victory Point Pinata on your hands for both sides. I like Pierre’s suggestion however, you should play this mission twice taking turns at defender.
Incursion: Supply Cache
Beanith: So we’re getting a little bit closer to Match play here with a simple Progressive scoring for hold one, hold one in your opponent’s deployment zone and hold more than your opponent. You’re also a bit closer too, so turn one charges are something to watch out for. One note for the Attacker to remember, beware the tricksy Defender who can take a Deployment Zone with no objective markers preventing the Attacker from scoring the full 30 Victory Points per turn if the Attacker isn’t careful in not placing the first Objective in a deployment zone. The Victor Bonus is a bit meh unless you’re hurting for Requisition Points.
PierreTheMime: This is a pretty simple mission and a good starter for Incursion-level gameplay. There’s not too many tricks involved, but as Beanith mentioned you need to pay attention while placing objectives or you’re going to be doing yourself a disservice.
Incursion: The Relic
Beanith: This is the other mission I played with Coda in the “They See me Crusading” article linked earlier. This is a fun mission that favors the bold… and the really fast infantry… mostly the really fast infantry. Daisy chains can also play a big part here as well, the model picking up the relic doesn’t have to be the one carrying the relic. Coda used this tactic to great effect against my very slow Death Guard trying to slowly catch up as Coda Yeeted the relic like a football back deep into his deployment zone. And it’s unquestionably a prize worth fighting for, you can a free relic of the appropriate level for any character that took part in the battle.
PierreTheMime: For players familiar with earlier editions of the game, this is a “classic” mission that has thankfully been relegated to a more narrative-driven game type where it should be. If played properly, this is a pretty fun mission with a very good reward. However, there are some things here that scream “abuse this,” like the fact that there is no limitation to how far a unit carrying the relic can move in a given phase (though they cannot redeploy using tricks). This means that certain armies can immediately outpace others, so be prepared to snipe out whatever Infantry units your opponent has that can move 12″+ in a turn if you can. There are potentially game-ending moves like Warptime-ing a unit of Warp Talons/Raptors or using the Swarmlord’s Hive Commander on some Gargoyles or Raveners that would allow a player to take the objective and retreat with it without much of a chance for the other player to do anything, which doesn’t really seem all that fun. Weirdly the old version of the mission had a limitation on how far a unit could move without dropping the Relic, which seems odd to remove since it just introduces more potential for aggravation.
Beanith: This is a great mission to play and one you’ll certainly want to re-rack and swap the Attacker/Defender roles for a second game. The Defender holds the cards in the setup for this one and you should be able to funnel the Attacker into some killzones. Keep in mind you both want the score the No Prisoners Objective (kill more) so both sides will be trying to protect heavily injured models and lone survivors more than usual. Weapons that ignore line of sight and most Fast Attack units will come in handy here for that. The rewards for both sides are nice, the Attacker getting to choose an upgrade (assuming you’re playing it “properly” and normally rolling) is good. The Defender getting to increase their Supply and change out the equipment on a model can’t be discounted either.
PierreTheMime: There’s not much more to say on this one. It’s a cool narrative Attacker/Defender mission that really shows how Crusade can shine. I know we’ve talked about it before, but 50PL/1000pts on the 30″x44″ board is going to potentially seem frantic and make defense slightly difficult since the Sabotage action has no limit on enemy models nearby. Defender will need to cover things pretty well to make sure they’re safe.
Incursion: Recon Patrol
Beanith: Just when you thought “Rolling for Reinforcements” was dead with a stake through the heart and buried under a crossroad, it rears its ugly head and says hello… That said, I kinda missed it. Plus having 50-74.999% of your army get Strategic Reserve for free is pretty sweet. Just be ready for the ‘feel bads’ when most of your army is delayed till turn 3 because you couldn’t roll a 4+ to save your life. The reward to mark 2 units for Greatness seems a little tacked on too. I won’t say no if it’s rolled but I still think it’s a bit of a ‘meh’ mission.
PierreTheMime: A pretty cool if somewhat hectic mission, thanks in no small part to the reemergence of the “classic” reserve rolls. With units getting Strategic Reserve access, performing Recon Sweep actions are going to be pretty easy so long as your opponent doesn’t screen for your units properly. Getting 3/4 table quarters done is going to be a cinch, so if you can screen your deployment zone properly that 30pt swing could definitely make the difference. With a relatively tiny reward, this seems like one you could play out a few times quickly, especially if you just rolled 1-3 for your units every time and desire sweet vengeance.
Incursion: The Ritual
Beanith: PierreTheMime covered this on the Combat Patrol: Assassinate mission. If your Warlord is a Daemon Prince or you’ve managed to inter your Captain into a dreadnought etc, you’re in for a good time. If it’s an Ethereal or Company Commander… well you’re in for a short time. The Attacker could place their two objectives near the Ritual Site and the Defender should probably look at placing their two either deep in their own zone or in the no man’s land in an effort to split up the attacker’s advance. Grumbles aside, this is another candidate mission to re-rack and switch roles afterwards for a second game.
PierreTheMime: What he said what I said. It is a little neat that Psykers actually get a tiny advantage, as they can remote-ritual from a distance which gives you a little more flexibility.
Incursion: Behind Enemy Lines
Beanith: Excuse me whilst I go build the biker army of my dreams so I can Yeet them across the board and jump over an imaginary barbed wire fence into freedom. An interesting mission though and it’s pretty clear on everything must start in or arrive in your deployment zone and then slog through no man’s land to get to the other side and off the board. No sneaky Necron techno chicanery, orky jumpin, or Swooping Hawks a’swoopin. If it’s taken off the board and would normally be deployed anywhere else, it instead goes straight back into your deployment zone.
Plus with all that going on, it’s also dark so you’re at -1 to hit at anything outside 18″. Which is in fact the is the icing on the cake, your transports and anything with the FLY keyword need to spend two consecutive turns on performing Action to leave the board and score you points. You might as well go chase down the enemy and throw spanners into their getaway plans in my opinion. But depending on the army this could be also a very quick game, the Harlequins could on you turn 1 and off the board turn 2.
PierreTheMime: This is a bit of a weird one. Firstly, the mission doesn’t really reward you for stopping your opponent and really incentivizes you just getting the hell out of dodge. It’s basically two armies running past each other waving and lobbing grenades as they pass. I don’t find it especially compelling, especially since armies that have gone in big for vehicles, jetbikes, and the like are just straight-up hosed if your opponent has enough firepower sticking around to deal with them as they linger at the board-edge fiddling with their keys.
We’ll be looking at some of our particular favorite Agendas found in the 9th Edition Rulebook. You can read Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones and Garrett “John Condit” Severson hot takes on the Codex specific Agendas in the Crusade Focus: Codex: Space Marines and Crusade Focus: Necrons
At Combat Patrol level games you can have one Agenda and Incursion level games you can take two Agendas. Much like Secondaries in Matched Play you can only take a maximum of one from each category. Broadly speaking, you can take an Agenda that are army wide or Agendas that focus on units. Each one has upsides and downsides. Unit specific ones can pay up lots of tasty XP quickly but it does mean putting a great big target on their back.
Beanith: My default go to is the Reaper Agenda. You can’t stop me from scoring it and typically I want my most killy unit to grab the 2XP so I can make them even more killy. If my opponent is rocking a lot of Vehicles and Monsters then I’ll take Priority Target and hopefully rake in the XP killing them. I also like the look of Recover Mission Archives, especially with the tasty 6XP but my Infantry are quite slow and my Death Guard seemed to have misplaced their bike keys a few millennium ago.
My mate has his favorite which is Scry Battle Plans, a psychic action with a warp charge of 4. All you need is an enemy character within 18″ and you’ll be piling on the XP superfast. It’s one the Campaign manager should keep an eye on as you can power level Psykers super quick to Legendary status in 5 to 6 games (5XP for the Agenda, 1XP for taking part, 3XP for Marked for Greatness for each game plus the 1XP for every 3rd unit killed).
PierreTheMime: Having played through Crusade enough with Death Guard, I basically slammed Survivor every game until my leader (a Lord of Corruption) was an unstoppable demigod. If you’ve got a decently tough unit that you can screen for, this can be a good one. Everything else I basically agree on. At the end of the day, similar to Matched Play Secondaries, there’s a select few that are winners, some (like Witch Hunter and Assassins) are situationally good, and the rest range anywhere from “meh” to trash-tier. Very likely if you don’t see them highlighted in these paragraphs, you can assume they’re skippable.
I agree with Beanith that Scry Battle Plans is a bit OP at this point if you’re running a Psyker-heavy army. If you and your friends are doing a campaign, talk about this before it becomes an issue.
Hopefully this rundown should give you some solid background to start playing Crusade at smaller levels. This method of narrative gameplay can be quite fast and fun, so it makes for a great way for many people to get in a few games in an afternoon and come out with some great stories and ways their their units have progressed.
Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.