Tactical Deployment: The Tournament Organizers Perspective

Chapter Approved: Tactical Deployment is coming out soon and if you missed our review, be sure to check it out here. The book brings an interesting new format of play to Warhammer 40k, where players build tactical terrain collections using terrain features with datasheets that share a BATTLEZONE keyword and then alternate deploying those features on the table prior to deploying their armies. Essentially, the players bring and place the terrain from their own collections and spend resources (Terrain Points) on each terrain feature they want to bring. Each piece of terrain has a datasheet with special rules for how it plays in-game and can be placed on their half of the table before deployment. 

One of the most interesting things about this new ruleset is that it has been presented through Chapter Approved as an alternative format for Matched Play rather than a Narrative Play format, prompting many players to (somewhat histrionically) wonder if all future tournaments would be required to allow players to bring their own terrain. And while that isn’t the case, we thought it would be worth having a discussion about the new rules with the Tournament Organizers (TOs) in the Goonhammer crew. 


Meet Today’s Roundtable

So in today’s round table, our TOs are talking about the new rules, the new missions, how they feel about the prospect of using these in an event, and whether they think they’ll be used at all.

Liam “Corrode” Royle

Liam has run 40k events for several years, and currently runs the Black Heart Wargaming Events in Bristol – and would have been the UK lead TO for the Goonhammer Open in a pre-COVID world.


Shane Watts 

Shane has run events for Warhammer 40k and Kill Team some time on the East Coast of the United States and similar to Liam, would have been the US lead TO for the Goonhammer Open.


Jon Kilcullen

When he’s not single-handedly trying to convince everyone of Space Wolf supremacy, Jon runs events all over the northern wastes of Canada.


Stephen Box

We’re also joined today by our special guest, Vanguard Tactics’ Stephen Box. Vanguard Tactics put on regular events and were at the forefront of establishing guidelines for running safe events during the COVID-19 pandemic. Liam recently attended the GT they held in September (you can read about that here) and see more about the measures they’ve put in place in the video below.




What are your first impressions of these rules?

Liam: I was really impressed at first glance looking through the new secondaries and missions. It seemed like a good set of rules which took the style of the GT missions and then added a twist on them that suited the new mission pack – and frankly some of the missions in this looked a lot better thought through the current GT ones.

Then I turned to the actual terrain-buying bit of the book and, well, that was that. I can only describe that part as a huge letdown.


Stephen: I completely agree with Liam, I was most excited about the prospect of new secondary objectives so I flicked to those pages of the books right away and to my pleasure I saw the new secondaries and I then double checked all of the returning secondaries to see if any had changed (as there are a couple I wish to see amended). This was really the draw for me – I was really excited to see new secondaries in the book, especially some which armies like Knights would be able to achieve. But then I looked back at the start of the book to understand more about the new terrain feature rules keywords. When I read the “setting up a game section” is when my heart just sank.


Jon: First impression? Money grab.  I had very little hope that this would be anything more than an attempt to sell some (if I am being honest) pretty non-functional terrain sets, for way way too much money.  After a couple seconds of reading, it appeared to be both better and worse.  There are some pretty cool new missions (but you have to ignore the terrain part) and some fairly balanced secondaries (I still wish things could not double-up, looking at you abhor/ assassinate).  Then we get to the steps required to play a game and it is adding more to an already fairly complex game and we have not even placed a model yet.  Not.A.Fan.


Shane: Ensuring that terrain was balanced at tournaments has always been a hard thing to accomplish. When I heard there was a terrain-centric packet aimed at matched play, I felt pretty dubious about it. 




Do you think these rules will see widespread adoption or are they more of novelty?

Liam: In our review we talked about the possibility of running Incursion sized events with these and I think that’s about the sweet spot – the kind of thing where you can show up for a fun day of trying something different and slam through a few games before the novelty wears off.

Other than that, no. I can’t imagine a serious event trying to run with these with the terrain-buying gimmick intact, though I can imagine a local TO trying out some of the missions adapted to a more normal format.


Stephen: The biggest issue for me is the extra step at the “setting up the game” part of the book. Not only is the terrain player placed which causes a huge amount of issues for competitive play (in my opinion) but also takes a lot of extra time. 

But now you have the “here is my terrain feature” step and until you buy it yourself you can’t see the rules for this terrain, so you will have to trust me when I tell you what each piece of terrain can and can’t do, or can I read all the rules for the 4-5 pieces and Ill need to read through them one by one to make sure I have understood them. As you can imagine, this will take a huge amount of time until all players have fully read all of the rules for each one let alone how much time it will take players to decide where they are going to place terrain. 

Shane: Just from a logistics perspective alone, I don’t think this will be adopted in the majority of competitive events. Expecting players to show up with terrain (that is acceptable to place on the table at a tournament) is a big ask, especially if they are travelling. Also Stephen mentioned the issues that including player placed terrain brings (not a fan of it myself), on top of furthering the issue by having the terrain having to be defined by each player. I think this will see use at smaller local events, but never at anything large unless drastic measures are taken by that TO to validate the terrain being brought by players.


Jon: There is exactly 0% chance people adopt this clunky missions set.  Player placed terrain brings so many logistical nightmares to the table for event organizers, nevermind the players.  There is a lot that can go wrong and very little that can go right with this.  Stephen and shane cover this.

Maybe as Liam suggested a store will try and run some small scale stuff with this but beyond that, you will never see an actual competitive event use this. 


Is there anything good here that you’d like to see incorporated into the 2020 Missions pack?

Liam: Definitely. The new secondaries are mostly good – though they still seem deathly afraid of Warpcraft being a thing people want to take outside of gimmick Ritual lists – and the mission secondaries presented in Tactical Deployment are far more consistently a good choice than the ones in the Grand Tournament Missions Pack. It would honestly be a shame to not see Hard Push and Deny the Foe in a future GT mission set because those are really good secondaries and there are plenty in the GT set they could easily replace.


Stephen: Not only am I looking forward to/hopeful that some of these new secondaries may influence future GT missions as Liam has already mentioned, I’d like to see a couple of the current secondaries be re-worked. For example I would like “Thin their ranks” to include wounds and not models and for it to only work on non-vehicle and non-monster units. That would make it a great pick against 2+ wound spam armies like marines. This would also mean it wouldn’t stack with “Bring it down” (Editor’s Note: Somewhere, Scott Horras just started vigorously nodding in agreement). I’d also like to see The Scouring mission open up the deployment zone to the full amount. Because not only can this mission ruin armies based on terrain layout, it also makes picking secondaries very difficult: It’s too easy to screen an opponent out of your deployment zone, making it near-impossible to score objectives that require you to be in the opponent’s deployment zone, while Raise the Banners is extremely difficult to score because every objective marker is in no man’s land.

Shane: As both Liam and Stephen have said, more secondaries and improved secondaries. Increasing the ways to score secondary objectives should open up more viable strategies and therefore should increase the variation in armies being played. pounding clipboard MORE VIABLE STRATEGIES



Jon: If you ignore the terrain part of this, it is mostly good.  Stephen and Liam cover why, I definitely think the current secondaries need to be tinkered with because there’s some that are just nearly impossible, and others that are just so incredibly punishing to very specific archetypes.  These missions are in the early stages so I definitely expect them to adjust and improve as 9th rolls on. I would definitely like to see a couple of these secondaries rolled into the GT package along with a couple of the missions (though I personally am not a fan of missions with only 3 objectives).  I think most people would have been excited about this if the terrain was just completely ignored and it just gave us the secondaries with missions. Then we’d be having a real debate.

Player-placed terrain isn’t a new thing. What’s your take on player-placed terrain at events? Is there a version of this format/rules that you think could work for larger events?

Liam: I’m mostly not a fan of it. It can work in games like Age of Sigmar where terrain is less impactful, but my opinion is that 9th edition Warhammer 40k really needs a heavy concentration of terrain with quite a lot of thought put into it to work, and you are just never going to get that with player-placed.

What I think could work for getting something out of Tactical Deployment if you wanted to use the terrain-buying aspect is a ‘minimum terrain’ set-up – the TO places a minimum amount of terrain, probably a couple of centre Ls and maybe 4-6 other pieces which give you something on the table, and then players place the rest using the Tactical Deployment rules, perhaps with a stricter requirement for terrain like you must bring 200pts worth. I don’t know if it would be totally worth the effort, but as a one-off it could be fun and maybe it would be a good way for a TO stepping up to larger events not to be stuck committing to building and painting a lot of terrain at once.

Stephen: From a practical standpoint running a tournament I can see it being a challenge. Trying to run this set up with COVID about is hard enough as it is with the extra safety measures you have to put in place, as you need more time anyway to get everyone in and out of the building safely along with safety briefing. We need time-saving rules not time-increasing rules and longer set up processes during this time period. There is also the issue of gaming the system and picking/placing terrain that could make some matchups completely unplayable for some armies. “I have placed all these terrain places just outside of 3” away from yours and now your knights can’t move to this side of the board. Let alone enforcing a painting standard on the terrain — do you drop then 10 points for not having battle-ready terrain? Do you just remove grey plastic terrain but then this could be something players try to game as terrain affects both players or do you keep it on the table and play with grey plastic? Just things to consider from a TO perspective. 

Jon: Player-placed terrain has no place in competitive 40k.  You do not see games like League of legends or <insert any top tier E-sport game> allowing their competitors to set the map how they feel it should be. It adds time to an already lengthy game, every TO will tell you that time management is a crucial part of running a successful event and you want to do as much as possible to streamline the entire process.  The less the players have to do the better.  

Additionally, as a TO I cringe any time a player picks up and moves a piece of my terrain as there is a high chance they do not treat it with care and could damage it, This is concerning for me as that is a huge investment of time and money to replace. As Stephen mentioned, COVID is most certainly a thing; it is not going away and we will most likely be wearing masks and having to do more serious sanitation (if you are in a place that even allows for events of any size) for not just the short term and this adds another layer of risk and concern for a TO and a player. We are now adding even more time for cleaning tables between games and discussing safety with regard to this. 

As a player, the player-placed terrain mini-game is infuriating at times as some armies just do not require terrain to function while others live and die with terrain. Placing terrain is extremely gameable which is a big concern – you ideally want as many things to be standardized as possible going into a game so skill alone will determine the outcome. I feel like player-placed terrain systems shift the game towards who can and who can not abuse the mini-game. When I look at results from player-placed terrain events, I honestly do not spend more than a couple seconds looking through them; it’s not worth the time to discuss why something won because it is entirely possible that player knew how to abuse the terrain game better than their opponents. I can not stand this style of play. Put it in the dumpster where it belongs. 

Shane: Oh, I didn’t realize we were going to get an opportunity to specifically bash player-placed terrain. I think it’s terrible. Player-placed terrain takes time out of the game actually being played and additionally for some players it becomes this weird mini game where they try to get one over on their opponent. As a TO, I want my tables to be as balanced as possible for every player, and the best way to accomplish that is to set the terrain up myself.



Final Thoughts

Stephen: I just hope GW thinks about the safety restrictions we have to play under at this time, and as an event team which had to consult with the local council and environmental health to get the all clear I know the extra steps that have to go into running the safest event possible with the least amount of risk. I hope GW considers ways to help this process rather than hinder it. And I think more needs to be done in regards to improving sportsmanship and reducing players’ ability to game the system and bring out a system and support for TOs to penalise players at events to manage other player’s enjoyment. For example a yellow and red card system with harsher penalties. The guys at Front Line Gaming have done a great job so far. But the responsibility should be with GW to make sure that all players play on a fair playing field and feel encouraged to play at events.


Jon:  Just another book I will not buy, which is unfortunate since there are some good missions and secondaries in there.  Hopefully those translate to an updated GT package someday.  For now I think the only good that came from this was the insane posts on reddit denouncing 40k which gave me a chuckle.  



Liam: Really just echoing what I wrote in the original review; this seems like a good set of missions which would probably have gotten a better reception if they weren’t tied in to a terrain gimmick which seems bolted-on at best. My main hope is that the missions included here show some lessons learned for a future, completely GT-focused pack.



Shane: I thought the idea was good; it seemed like it could be interesting. I think there is room here to take pieces of the packet to move into competitive events (secondaries). Overall a swing and a miss, but maybe there is something to be gleaned.



Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.