Editor’s Note: This article discusses the 2019 season mission pack. An updated version will be produced once the 2020 pack leaves beta.
Regular readers of my tournament reports might have noticed that I’ve been playing a lot more ITC this year than I did last year. The format has exploded in popularity over here in the UK and I’ve been having a blast playing it (and acquiring precious, juicy, life affirming points). Fresh from a GT this past weekend, which I’ll be reporting on later in the week, I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt about one of the more unique challenges of playing ITC – picking Secondary Objectives.
Thanks to Booley (instagram) from my Discord for helping me fill out the images here, and as ever to the many tournament opponents who say yes when I ask if I can take pictures for my blog!
For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, Secondary Objectives (usually just shortened to “secondaries”) are a system used by the ITC and a few other tournament formats which allow players to customise part of the mission in each game they play. In ITC’s implementation, each mission has a primary scoring track that awards up to 30 victory points, and each player gets to pick three secondary objectives from a list of fifteen, and can score a maximum of four points for each of them over the course of the game.
While every tournament format is going to have its share of brutal, one-sided stompings, the ITC scoring system is designed to generate close, tense games, and it’s much more common than in something like ETC to see games decided on a handful of points. Making good choices when picking your secondaries is thus critical to ITC success. It’s also something that new players, especially those coming across from events that run “book missions” or dipping their toes into tournaments for the very first time, can find quite intimidating.
Today I’ll be talking through the strategies I use when picking Secondary Objectives, and running through some of the common pitfalls they present for new players. Much like the previous article on getting the best out of (or killing off) Imperial Assassins, this has grown out of some discussions within our community as more and more of the Goonhammer crew have been lured into the seedy world of high stakes tournament 40K. Other people certainly have written on the subject, and it comes up a lot on podcasts targeted at the competitive community, but I can’t find any written guides that have gone up recently and podcasts are great but aren’t really searchable, so that’s all the excuse to channel my inner OVERLORD WINGS and arrogantly tell you all what you’re doing wrong, so enjoy the guide!
To see the full list of secondary objectives and how to score them, you can take a look at the full ITC mission pack. For the sake of quick reference, a very rapid list of them is as follows:
- Scoring for Killing Stuff
- Headhunter: Kill characters
- Kingslayer: Inflict wounds on a specific character
- Marked For Death: Pick four Power Level 7+ targets. Kill them.
- Titan Slayers: Inflict wounds on TITANIC models.
- Gang Busters: Inflict wounds on units with multiple 3W+ models.
- Big Game Hunter: Kill Vehicles/Monsters.
- Pick Your Poison: Pick four units that each have a different keyword from a set list of six. Kill them.
- Butcher’s Bill: Kill 2+ units in a single turn.
- The Reaper: Score a point for every 20 models you kill.
- Scoring Based on Positioning/Objective Control
- Recon: Have a different unit at least partially in each table quarter at the end of your turn.
- Behind Enemy Lines: Have a unit entirely in your opponent’s deployment zone at the start of your turn.
- Ground Control: Score a point for each objective held at the end of the game.
- King of the Hill: Score a point for having two multi-model units wholly within 6″ of the board centre at the end of your turn.
- Engineers: Nominate two (non-character) Engineer units at the start of the game. Score a point if they start and end your turn near the same objective and do nothing else from T2 onwards.
- Old School: Score a point for First Strike, Slay the Warlord and Linebreaker (all as per rulebook missions) and Last Strike (kill a unit in the last Battle Round played).
The exact restrictions on some of them, and in particular which ones you can score “concurrently” with other objectives, can be seen in the mission pack linked above and will be discussed when we go over each one. In general, a good rule of thumb is that anything where it would be convenient for one unit to count for both it probably won’t. Exactly how they interact keeps slightly changing (on reviewing the pack for writing this I spotted a change to “The Reaper” that I hadn’t fully absorbed before), so it’s definitely worth having a quick refresher before reading on if you haven’t looked at the pack for a while.
The list is pretty sizeable, but as you’ll see once we start discussing how to pick them, you’re likely to find that in any given game only a subset of the objectives are possible (especially once you account for the stacking rules) and an even smaller number are “good”. There are lots of different objectives that reward you for killing a variety things, but tournament lists tend to be quite focused, so it’s unlikely you’ll always see the random mix of stuff needed to easily fill up on those. Most armies can theoretically achieve a lot of the positional ones, but outside of Recon it takes quite a specific list or plan to avoid making it easy for your opponent to thwart you. Finally, Old School sits at the bottom of the list playing enchanting harp music about how soothing and familiar it is, plotting to lure people onto the rocks of failure then devour their corpses and steal their ITC points.
Because every ITC game is likely to have a different set of possible objectives, it’s very difficult to write a definitive guide of exactly which objectives to choose in any given game. Instead, the rest of this article is going to consist of two things:
- A set of principles to follow when picking your secondaries.
- A tour through the choices covering the kinds of list they might be good against.
Combining these should give you the tools you need to make sensible choices in your future games, and hopefully dispel some of the mystique around the process. It’s also important to stress that it’s fine to get this wrong sometimes – even the best players make mistakes on this, and I’ve certainly come away from all my recent events with at least one game where I think I made the wrong choice – a Necrons vs. Orks match where I had to make serious sacrifices to score my last Recon point but had scythed (well, 3 “wraithed” and one “scythed”) through four characters by turn 3 springs especially to mind. It’s also worth mentioning that in every ITC mission there’s 42 points available, and only 12 of them are from secondaries. It’s a common error for players new to ITC to get overexcited about picking secondaries and focusing on those, and then forget that 70% of the points available come from the primary mission. Choosing good secondaries will help you win, but over-focusing on it can be counter-productive.
This is all also, of course, my opinion – if you disagree or have cunning insights that we’ve missed please do leave a comment or get in touch via the Goonhammer Facebook Page, or our fancy new group mailbox firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picking Secondaries – The Principles
Writing articles is always fun because it forces me to distil down the hodge-podge of instincts and experience I use to make these decisions into an actual concrete set of principles. Luckily in this case they refine down quite neatly to a set of four rules to make these decisions by:
- Pick Secondaries you can realistically maximise.
- Pick Secondaries that are on your “critical path” to victory.
- Pick Secondaries that minimise your opponent’s agency to disrupt your scoring.
For each we’ll go through why you should follow them the majority of the time, and then quickly discuss at the end of this section what circumstances you might consider deviating from them once you’ve got a few games under your belt and know what you’re doing. As with all such things, the principles sound like neat separate things on paper, but start to bleed into each other when we discuss them in detail, which we’ll jump into now.
1. Pick Secondaries You Can Realistically Maximise
This one’s pretty obvious, but it bears spelling out. Unless you pick secondaries that you can score you aren’t getting your Secondary Objective points, and unless you pick ones you can maximise you are limiting the ceiling of your score in a way that might come back to bite you.
Most of the opponents you play against will be helpful and answer any questions you have about what’s scorable against their army (I certainly do, and have pretty much universally got the same in return), but they may well not choose to volunteer their vulnerability to some of the more niche “kill stuff” ones like Kingslayer and Pick Your Poison, so knowing when to be on the lookout for these is important (something we’ll cover when we go through the list). If you think you’ve spotted something clever don’t be afraid to ask – confirming you’re correct is always sensible, and your opponent isn’t allowed to mislead you under the ITC conduct guidelines. In theory they could refuse to answer, but I’ve literally never encountered someone who did this in the wild – they seem to exist solely in apocryphal Internet stories about how terrible tournament players are, at least as far as the UK is concerned.
One thing to be careful of under this principle is that you don’t forget the “realistically” part. Most of the “positioning/objective” based ones are theoretically maxable by the vast majority of armies in most games, but outside of Recon doing this is not going to be realistic most of the time. The “kill stuff” secondaries are a bit more forgiving on this front, as it turns out that things die a lot in 40k, but watch out for Headhunter – your opponent having four characters isn’t going to help that much if they’re going to spend the whole game hiding behind a wall of stuff you can’t kill. In general, playing a few tournaments with the same list will give you a good sense for what it is and isn’t going to manage to put in the ground over the course of an average game, and you should calibrate your selections accordingly.
2. Pick Secondaries on Your “Critical Path”
In project management, very crudely, the “critical path method” refers to analysing the way all the tasks interact in order to construct a model of what needs to happen in what order so that the project can be completed successfully by the shortest, easiest route. To a significant degree, this same kind of thinking can be applied to 40K. One of the most important jumps you need to make when transitioning from playing more casual games of 40K to competitive events is learning how to make a game plan and follow through on it.
This is a big part of why I structure my tournament reports in the way I do, making sure to discuss what my plan was before the game started. I want to hammer home how important it is, and knowing I have to write it down later forces me to make one! This doesn’t have to be a detailed four point master plan for galactic dominance, but before a model goes down on the board you should ideally have at least some idea of what both you and your opponent’s first turn goals/targets are likely to be, and how you might deploy to streamline achieving yours and mess with theirs. You should also have some idea of a few things that have to happen (usually enemy units dying on a certain timeframe) for you to have a good chance of victory.
Once you have a plan, you can take the possible options you’ve come up with after applying the first principle and filter them down to ones you would actively want to be completing. This helps in two ways:
- You won’t be tempted to deviate from your plan in a dangerous way just to score secondary points.
- In a close game (which is where scoring these matters the most) there’s a good chance you got a decent way along your “critical path”, so you’re likely to have a higher score.
You can think of this positively in terms of your game plan, but you can also flip it on its head and be more pessimistic – if you look at your opponent’s list and think “if I don’t manage to kill X then I’ve definitely lost” you should be aiming to pick a secondary that involves killing X, because you know you need to do it.
We can get a good worked example of this out of some hypothetical matchups against various kinds of Chaos armour with my normal Alaitoc lists.
My tanks/planes are key parts of my list and use hit modifiers as their primary defence rather than invulnerable saves. If I’m up against a Chaos army and see a bunch of lascannon Predators, I’m going to want to start melting those to slag straight away – my opponent can buff up their hit rolls with Prescience to counter my modifiers, and if I don’t blow at least the first one away then Killshot can ruin my day. They also melt trivially to Hemlocks and Crimson Hunters. In this case Big Game Hunter is probably a good pick, as I want those Predators dead straight away. However, if my opponent’s big armour is Plagueburst Crawlers it’s probably a much less good option – they’re a pain for my firepower to kill, much less good at killing my vehicles thanks to their poor base BS and can be functionally removed from the game by bully charges from Wave Serpents or Banshees. Them being both tough and waaaay down my priority list means I’m better off looking elsewhere for my Secondary choices.
Game plan considerations can also impact on whether I pick Recon. My list can nearly always max this out, but doing so is going to require pushing my planes all over the board. If I want them back near my castle screening out against Deep Strike melee units, or if I don’t want to be putting them near short ranged options that can blow them from the sky, then Recon is a vastly less attractive option.
It’s worth highlighting that for most of the positional secondaries that aren’t Recon (and I guess maybe Engineers if you’re playing with enclosed buildings and your opponent brought no indirect fire weapons), achieving them needs to be a pretty “active” part of your game plan. The hoops that they require you to jump through are sufficiently large that they aren’t just going to happen naturally, and if you’re picking them you should hopefully have elements baked into your list designed to achieve them, and be planning how you’re going to do it from the word go. By way of example, in the past I’ve played against an opponent using a high number of Imperial Assassins to deep strike into my deployment zone, which were able to reliably score Linebreaker, an objective which is often difficult for other lists to achieve.
3. Pick Secondaries that Minimise your Opponent’s Agency
These principles are very roughly in order, so this one’s more of a “nice to have” in games where you have an abundance of choices. Where possible, if you have some choices between secondaries that are otherwise broadly “equal.” you should pick the one that gives your opponent the least influence over your scoring. Once again, this comes back to secondaries mattering most in really close games – the last thing you want in turns 5 and 6 of a knife edge match for the coveted 5-0 is to have handed your opponent a tonne of ways to deny you points.
In general, this leads to killing secondaries and Recon being preferable over other positional ones (as all of them give your opponent ways to stop them), and “non-specific” murderous ones being better than “targeted” ones (so “Big Game Hunter” over “Marked for Death”). Any “kill stuff” one that involves going after a Character is also going to hand a certain amount of agency to your opponent, so watch out for that.
The games where you’re going to have so many choices that you can consider this too much are going to be few and far between, but that’s a good rule of thumb you can take out of it – don’t make your opponent’s life any easier than it needs to be, and don’t make yours any harder!
With these principles in mind, we’ll now go through the available secondaries and work out what situations they’re going to be best in, including highlighting some of the key metagame choices they’re relevant against.
Picking Secondaries – The Choices
We start with one of the secondaries that I think gets mispicked the most often – Headhunter. With dual Battalion lists being extremely popular, you can very often max this secondary out, meaning it will very often pass the test the first principle sets it. Where it often falls down is on the other two. Excepting larger monster/vehicle characters (which as we’ll see, are often better used elsewhere), characters have built in protection against getting killed, meaning you’re almost never going to be taking them out right away unless you’ve brought three Vindicare Assassins, in which case sure ignore all this and go wild.
In particular, buff characters or hidden backline commanders are pretty unlikely to die. I’ve had this picked against me a non-zero number of times where one of my (exactly four) characters has been my warlord Archon, who habitually hides in my deployment zone, and I can’t immediately think of a game he’s died in that I haven’t lost pretty spectacularly, or that didn’t feature the aforementioned Vindicare. Character screening also hands your opponent a tonne of agency to interfere with this – if things are going down to the wire, and you haven’t done well on this so far, keeping their characters alive is going to be appreciably easier than for any other unit type.
So that’s a tonne of reasons why you should probably be a bit more skeptical about this than many people are – what about times when you should take this? Are there any?
Absolutely! I generally think you’re looking for one of the following to be true before you pick this:
- You’re up against a list with multiple characters that need to “come out to play” to realise their value. Good examples are Daemon Princes, Custodes Bike Captains and the melee-oriented Imperial Assassins. None of these are the easiest things to take down, but if your opponent wants to get the best out of these units in a game then at some point they’re going to have to engage you – and at the point they do your realistic path to victory is probably over their dead bodies, which mitigates any concerns over principle 2. It does still give your opponent agency, but it tends to leave them with only bad choices in a close game – they don’t want to give you a point, but nor do they want to pull their alpha unit out of the fight.
- You’re up against a non-Plaguebearer horde list that comes with heavy character backup. I’m mostly thinking of Genestealer Cults and Orks here – these habitually rack up Brigade-Battalion or triple Battalion lists, and have characters out and about with units you can melt, leaving the leaders vulnerable. They also tend to be quite high value and things you want to prioritise killing when you get that chance – the relief I feel against Orks when the last “Da Jump” Weirdboy dies is palpable. I’ve had a couple of games recently where I haven’t picked Headhunter in these circumstances and have regretted it, and especially in light of the recent-ish changes to Reaper and Marked for Death, am going to start doing this more often.
- You have tools to pick characters off through screening. This probably means an Execution Force of Assassins. It’ll probably work.
If any of those are true, go for it!
Kingslayer gives you a point for every 2W you inflict on a chosen character (or 4W if they’re a vehicle or monster) and an extra point when they die if they were the warlord. The Vehicle/Monster rider (and Celestine changing in the Beta Codex) means there are only a few things that give this up unless they’re the warlord, but both of these are pretty much shoe-ins if you see them, being:
- Magnus the Red
- Any Imperial Knight that’s been made a character (and that means probably Chaos Knights soon as well)
Magnus is going to come party in your lines and ruin your day unless you kill him sharpish, and if you’re up against a Knight you’re probably going to want to kill it. Against multi-knight lists you usually have multiple choices, so make sure to pick the one you want to kill first so that if attrition starts to make you run out of steam (and against knights that’s gonna happen sometimes) you’ve locked this down nice and early.
Technically Belisarius Cawl is also a candidate, but when picking Kingslayer targets you want to be thinking about the same things as when considering Headhunter, and Cawl is definitely going to be hiding right in the back-line of your opponent’s army.
The other place this will be viable is if non-Vehicle/Monster characters with 6W (or V/M ones with 12W) are made the warlord. In no particular order, targets you should keep an eye out for are:
- Bike Autarchs (Farseers too, but they’re less likely to come play in your lines)
- Shield Captains of all flavours (though I’m not totally clear what happens if there are multiple and they use the warlord transfer stratagem, I’m sure someone can tell me how the LVO ruled it in the comments)
- Tank Commanders
- Hive Tyrants
- Ork Warbike bosses
- Space Marine Captains on Bikes
- Primaris Captains
- Genestealer Patriarchs
That’s a big old list – there are probably more but these are the ones that spring to mind, and are the kinds of things that are likely to get stuck in at some point, making them juicy targets. In the main, if your opponent’s warlord is packing some sick wheels it’s probably time to start checking if this is feasible, and it’s often a good choice when it is. As above, this is also pretty much an auto pick against a character Knight or Magnus, where it’s likely to be one of your best choices.
Marked For Death
Marked for Death asks you to pick four of your opponent’s units that have PL7+ and kill them. The upside of this over some of the more focused “kill stuff” objectives is that it’s possible in a much broader array of games – while some lists deliberately keep the number of powerful units of the same “class” down to minimise how easy it is to score points from e.g. Big Game Hunter, most tournament lists include “powerful units”, and it’s very rare that this won’t be possible.
The tradeoff is that it hands your opponent a lot more agency. By forcing you to designate the units you’re going to kill, Marked for Death gives your opponent the choice to play defensively with them and deny you points. With that in mind:
1.) When picking this, the units should be ones you’re “expecting” to be able to/have to kill.
2.) You shouldn’t pick this over some more “generic” choices when both are viable. If your opponent has a total of six vehicles with PL7+ that are also worth “Big Game Hunter”, and no other PL7+ units, you should just choose “Big Game Hunter”, as it gives you more flexibility.
Another important note that I’m discovering on properly scrutinising the latest version of the mission pack (please make a changelog Frontline) is that this no longer stacks with “The Reaper”, despite the latter stacking with everything else. This does sort of make sense from a philosophical point of view, but means that in matchups where you previously might have taken both, you definitely now take “The Reaper”.
This one gives you a point for each 8W you deal to a Titanic model. This means that outside of nasty Forge World nonsense, you need your opponent to have multiple Titanic units on the board for this to be usable, as non-FW Titanic choices cap out at 28W.
If your opponent has brought a full on Super-Heavy detachment, dealing with it is almost certainly on your “critical path”, so this is a fine choice. The only reason it’s not an “auto-pick” in those situations is that if one or more of those Super Heavies is a character, then Kingslayer is definitely better (and doesn’t stack on the same model). If your opponent basically has those super heavies and not much more, you probably do end up picking both, scoring Kingslayer on the first and Titan Slayers on the rest, but bear in mind that when you do that, you’re probably only maxing out both when you win, so it does fall down a bit in a close game. That means if your opponent has brought a more balanced list that has some other possible stuff to choose from, maybe prioritise that over locking yourself in to definitely trying to drop three Super Heavies
In my opinion Gangbusters is up there for the single best secondary to pick in games when it’s viable. It requires you to do a total of 24W to multi-model non-SWARM units where the individual models have 3W+.
The vast majority of 3W+ multi-model units that are viable in the competitive metagame are:
- Big damage dealers.
- Only modestly difficult to kill.
- Low-medium ranged.
All of these things tend to put them right near the top of your target priority list, and while there are some examples that don’t meed all of these criteria (such as Tau Broadsides, which are a bit longer range and tough to kill through Drones) these are often lynchpins of their lists, so still top of your target list.
If I can score Gangbusters there’s a very good chance it’s going at the top of my list. Juicy targets include:
- Custodes Jetbikes
- Admech Kataphrons & Dragoons
- Necron Destroyers & Wraiths
- Harlequin Skyweavers
- Drukhari Grotesques (technically Talos too but you’re probably calling “Big Game Hunter” on those)
- Tau Broadsides
You may recognise these as some of the most popular and powerful units in their respective codices, and regular features in top lists from those armies. They all often travel in sufficient numbers to give this up as well, most comically Sydonian Dragoons, where a big unit of 5-6 is a popular choice and maxes this out by itself.
This isn’t a complicated objective, and that’s pretty much all there is to it – when it’s viable, it’s got a great chance of being your best.
Big Game Hunter
Simple and clean – kill monsters/vehicles with 7+ wounds. There’s a few specific great targets to be aware of (Talos are notoriously less prevalent in the US metagame than the EU because each individual Talos leaks a point), but mostly this comes down to:
1.) Does your opponent have a lot of tanks/monsters?
2.) Is killing them on your “critical path” to winning the game?
If the answer to both of these is “yes”, then BGH is probably a strong pick. Exactly how strong definitely varies – you’re much happier taking this against an army like Guard or Drukhari where they tend to have a decent number of relatively flimsy vehicles alongside their tougher stuff, but it’s still OK to take against lists where the targets are made of sterner stuff – most people pick this against my Aeldari mech list and they do almost always pick enough things off to max it out even when I win.
Guard and various flavours of Aeldari (planes, mech and Talos all give it up easy) are where this is at its very best, but with the arrival of the Lord Discordant and Purge Deredeos in the metagame Chaos armies are starting to pack some OK targets as well (though those take a bit more killing, so maybe weigh it a bit less heavily). The Necron list which packs three Doom Scythes and three Doomsday Arks is also a shoe-in.
Pick Your Poison
Pick your poison is a relatively new addition to the list, being a twist on Marked For Death (and along with Gang Busters, designed to reduce the efficiency of some of the “secondary denial” lists). Rather than choosing units with PL7+, you instead have to pick four units that each have a different keyword from the list of:
I’ll save you the trouble of trying to work out where it’s good – it basically works well against mixed Chaos and Aeldari lists, and is maybe relevant against Imperial Soup or Orks depending on exactly what they’ve brought along (lone Mek Guns being an extremely soft “vehicle” choice in the latter).
It tends to be viable a fair sight less frequently than Marked for Death, but when it is it has the advantage that some of the units involved in it might be a bit softer than other possible targets – against Harlequins, for example, you can fill out two of the slots (Fly and Vehicle) with Starweavers, which are normally too pathetic to give up points for anything. If your opponent hasn’t considered this option while building their list, it stands a much greater chance of giving you an easy ride to some points. Unlike Marked For Death, a lot of biker characters sneak in to being pickable for this, which is also useful if they have one aggressive character like a Bike Autarch, but not enough to go for Headhunter.
Aeldari Bike psykers and Chaos Daemon Princes are probably the biggest “wildcards” in filling this out, giving up three possible choices each, and potentially making this option available to you when others aren’t. Just bear in mind that it has many of the same problems as Marked for Death, so still shouldn’t be at the top of your list unless your opponent has brought a really easy set of targets.
The Butcher’s Bill
Destroy two units in a turn to score a point. Pretty simple and clean, just bear in mind that this is non-stacking, meaning that these units can’t be ones you’re destroying for other objectives. That means your opponent needs to have things you want to kill and are going to go through at a high rate that aren’t valid for other objectives. Tau and Drukhari Venom spam are probably the top candidates for this – the former almost always have a large number of small Fire Warrior and Drone squads that you need to go through to open up the big targets, and against the latter, killing a Venom and the Kabalites inside is good for a point.
This one is probably one of the ones you need to be more cagey about than many people are, because it’s another that’s almost always theoretically possible, but can become extremely tough to do if you fall behind in a game, meaning it’s often not reliable when things are close. If at all possible, keep it for the games where it’s great, not just the ones where it looks OK.
The Reaper (destroy 20 models for a point) is probably the most binary of the objectives – either your opponent has <~100 models and its worthless, or they have >100 models and it’s your best choice. If you turn up and see an Ork horde, 50 Tzaangors and some plaguey bois, or a swarming GSC insurrection, go ahead and slam this at the top of your scoresheet – you’ll almost always complete it. Against almost anything else don’t bother.
The only other complication here is the relatively new rider that it specifically doesn’t stack with Marked for Death. It still does with everything else, but against Orks the old tactic of choosing some big Boyz units for MfD and double tapping with this is no longer viable. You should always pick this one in preference when both are viable.
The first, and best, of the positional objectives, Recon gives you a point for having a unit partially in each table quarter at the end of your player turn (with each unit only being able to “claim” one quarter). The fact that it’s at the end of your turn and pretty “permissive” (only needing to be partially in lets vehicles pick this up without straying too far from home) is what elevates this above the other positional objectives – it doesn’t really ask you to skew your list that much, and there’s not a lot your opponent can do about it other than “kill all your stuff”, which was probably in their plans anyway.
The most notorious users of this are, of course, my very own beautiful zoomy bois the Aeldari planes, but a lot of armies can make this work, making this one of the most commonly seen objectives – I was pretty reliably maxing this out with my extremely silly Necron C’tan spam list, which needed to pick it due to its low ability to reliably pick off distant targets.
Do bear in mind that it isn’t totally without a cost, as some people fall into the trap of assuming – having control over where you choose to place your units does have a degree of value, especially in the current metagame where there are some extremely strong Deep Strike/Redeploy effects commonly used. If I’m very confident of maxing out three killing objectives, or I need my planes to focus on Deep Strike screening, I’m very happy to leave this on the table even with my Aeldari, who are pretty much the ideal (ab)users.
Behind Enemy Lines
I have seen behind enemy lines maxed out exactly twice. Both times my opponent had a full Execution Force or more of Imperial Assassins.
There certainly are lists that can do this, but the fact that you score it at the start of your turn hands your opponent a huge amount of agency to prevent you scoring it – the last person that picked this against me got 0 points for it, because I had loaded up on killing objectives myself, abandoned scoring “Hold More” and just castled up brutally murdering everything that came near my army until the dust settled and I had a big win. Only pick this if you are very confident that you have stuff that can either sneak into your opponent’s zone and hide, or they’re short of screening and you’re going to hit them with an absolutely overwhelming rush early on (I guess the Tyranid Swarmlord lists can probably pull this off?).
Ground Control gives you a point for every objective you hold at the end of the game. This is a tough ask, and immediately falls foul of our concerns about what happens in a close game – are you really confident that you’re definitely going to have enough materiel left to hold four objectives when all is said and done? Plaguebearer and Ork horders are the most likely to pull this off, but mostly this objective feels like it’s aimed at two groups of players:
- Top players who can recognise when they’ve got a horrible mismatch in their advantage and want a free max secondary for their tiebreakers when they table their opponent in a few turns.
- Horde players up against the lists that do dismally against hordes like Aeldari plane spam.
- People intending to time out the game on turn 2 with their Plaguebearer horde on every objective. Don’t be this person. No one likes them.
If one of the first two situations applies to you, go wild. If you’re in bucket 3 just…ugh. Ugghhhhhhh.
King of the Hill
King of the hill baffles me, because it’s such a nightmare to score. To get a point, you have to have at least two non-character, multi-model units wholly within 6″ of the middle of the board. This is a complete pain for a number of reasons:
- A 12″ diameter circle is actually pretty small – you aren’t fitting a couple of Plaguebearer blobs in there.
- If you get put on the first turn (and if you’re running a horde list, your opponent will probably do this) it hands a tonne of agency to your opponent.
- It can’t be stacked with Recon, a much nicer objective that you can definitely pull off if you can do this.
I had a chat with another serious ITC player on my 40K Discord, and the only example we could come up with of a list that might pull this off is a Sisters of Battle list similar to the one I proposed in my review of their beta codex, which focuses on having a moving castle of small, hard to shift units with a 4++. That’s pretty out there though, and I’ve literally never had this picked against me since it was added.
This is one of the more recent addition, and I expect it to get tweaked to be better in the next round of updates. A 9″ radius would give it a decent bump, and would have a nice symmetry with a lot of the deployment maps.
Engineers is another tough one, but with a much clearer set of situations where it’s good. For this, you have to nominate two units from your army at the start of the game. These units cannot be characters, and cannot benefit from any rule that prevents them being targeted, but if one of them starts and ends your turn (from turn 2 onwards, thanks to Reddit user Serpents-Smile for pointing out we’d not flagged!) within 3″ of the same objective and makes no attacks, you get a point.
Obviously this immediately hands a spectacular amount of agency to your opponent, because if they kill both of those units before turn 5, then you aren’t maxing that out. This is therefore at its best when you can somehow interfere with that, and situations where that might be true include:
- You’re in one of the missions where you can have an objective deep in your deployment zone, you have good screening and your opponent has a low-shooting horde.
- Your opponent has no indirect fire and there’s a lot of line of sight blocking terrain or you’re playing in an event with LVO magic boxes (which are still terrible, I love ITC now but these are still horrible game design, sorry Americans).
If you’ve got a unit you can spare and you’re confident that you can keep it safe in a scoring, this can be an extremely easy objective to score, but it’s pretty much always going to be matchup and terrain dependent, so you’ll need to form a judgement based on the above criteria.
Last, not least, but also not best, Old School. This mashes together three features of the GW rulebook missions (First Strike, Linebreaker and Kingslayer) with “Last Strike” (kill a unit in the last battle round played) added. It’s reassuring and familiar, and by definition always possible to max out. It’s also a terrible trap.
The problem with Old School is that effectively what it asks of you for max points, by dint of the combination of goals it sets you, is for you to please go ahead and win the game. As discussed at the beginning of the article, what you really want from your secondaries is for them to be handing you points in a close game, but in a game that you lose or fall behind in the only reliable point you will get from this is First Strike, and even that hands your opponent quite a bit of agency to deny you in some matchups – I cannot tell you how viscerally satisfying getting to put a cross through the first point of “Old School” on an ITC scoresheet is, and I’ve gotten to do this on multiple occasions via the use of counter deployments with my planes.
To slightly spoiler my upcoming tournament report from the Bad Moon Series, this is what an army that can max out Old School looks like:
High threat, high ranged units that can blow through pretty much any form of defences, and the mobility and staying power to turn a slight lead into a brutal rout. This is an objective to pick when you’re in one of those matchups that’s can really only swing hard one way or the other – if it tilts your way you’ll max it out en route to your crushing victory, if it goes against you no number of secondary points are going to help you. It is not one to pick just because it feels “traditional”.
Consider yourselves warned. This is me absolving myself of the guilt for exactly how much I’l enjoy putting the next little cross through the “1” on a score sheet, because unless literally everyone reads this article, there will be a next time.
The Tier List
I have been informed by my chat buddies that it isn’t real internet content without a tier list.
So be it.
Roughly, I would put the Secondaries in the following approximate tiers for selection (assuming good conditions for each as discussed above):
- Top Tier
- The Reaper
- Kingslayer (Knight or Magnus)
- Good Tier
- Titan Slayers
- Big Game Hunter
- Pick Your Poison (gets the nod over Marked for Death for being easier when it’s good and stacking with Reaper on Stormboyz)
- Kingslayer (other)
- Butcher’s Bill
- Old School
- Marked For Death
- Behind Enemy Lines
- Ground Control
- King of the Hill
- Top Tier
That’s probably enough internet content for one day. Do you agree? Give us a like on Facebook and tell me how great I am. Do you disagree? Is there a strategy I’ve overlooked for one of the more niche ones? Let me know in the comments – I’ve played quite a bit of ITC now but I’m always interested in more insights.