Well here we are nearly one year into 9th edition Warhammer 40,000 and Games Workshop has released a second iteration of its annual Grand Tournament Missions Pack. The GT 2020 pack was an interesting change of strategy for Games Workshop; it not only redefined what Chapter Approved releases would look like for 9th edition moving forward it also single-handedly united the 40k competitive landscape under a single tournament rules packet (though rules interpretations and rulings still vary by event), giving us one set of missions and secondary objectives to play with. The result was a competitive scene more unified than ever, and a greater focus on the quality of the missions and secondaries. In a similar fashion, the 2021 GT pack gives GW to establish a new set of precedents for 9th edition, showing us just how much they intend to change year-to-year – do they plan to incorporate data from events? Do they intend to shake things up with big changes each year? Or do they plan to play it safe, keeping changes as minimal as possible?
The short answer is “they played it safe,” with mostly small – but important – changes to the GT Secondary Objectives, and no changes to the missions themselves. This came as a bit of a surprise, since it seemed like we were due for at least a few mission changes to some of the more oft-maligned missions. On the other hand, the 2020 missions pack had only been in use for about six months before this likely went to printers, and during a time when COVID had strangled global events and reduced the number of games played. As such, “playing it safe” wasn’t necessarily uncalled for, either. We’ll have more thoughts from competitive players on the changes in our round table a little later on but for now, we’ll be talking about what changed, with some quick notes on the implications of those changes.
So what changed? Well, overall we spotted the following trends:
- Most secondaries were replaced rather than changed. While some secondaries kept the errata they received in the January 2021 FAQ, Games Workshop opted to just change out the old secondaries where major changes in scoring were due, replacing them with new secondaries with different names. This is good for us from a data collection perspective, but may be annoying for players used to one naming convention.
- The removal of “all-or-nothing” secondaries. Secondaries that previously awarded you either 0 or full VP for completing them (mostly in the Shadow Operations and Warpcraft categories) have been replaced with secondary objectives that have more progressive means of scoring, but typically lower caps.
- Many secondaries are easier to score. Additionally some secondaries have been replaced with ones that give you ways to score partial credit, such as Behind Enemy Lines as a replacement for Linebreaker giving you points for having only one unit in an enemy deployment zone. This makes a larger number of secondary objectives viable.
- There’s one fewer secondary than before. No one’s going to miss Cut Off the Head except Chase “Gunum” Garber, but it’s worth noting that now have 17 secondary objective options instead of 18.
With the broad strokes out of the way let’s talk about individual secondaries in each category. If I don’t mention something that’s because it remained unchanged.
- Linebreaker was replaced with Behind Enemy Lines. The new secondary objective gives you 2 Victory points at the end of your turn for having one non-AIRCRAFT unit in the enemy deployment zone, and 4 VP if you have two or more non-AIRCRAFT units wholly within the enemy deployment zone. This follows the general trend of making secondaries a bit easier to score partial credit on and makes it easier to knock out 6-8 points for Behind Enemy Lines if you can consistently teleport units into your opponent’s deployment zone on turns 2 and 3.
- Domination was replaced with Stranglehold. Domination gave you 3 VP at the end of your turn if you controlled more than half the objective markers on the battlefield. Stranglehold gives you 3 VP at the end of your turn if you control 3 or more objective markers and also control more than your opponent controls. Domination was previously nearly impossible to score on missions with 6 objective markers, where you were required to hold 4 of them in order to score points, and was also pretty difficult on missions with 4, where you’d have to hold 75% of the markers, making it a real “win more” secondary. This new version only requires you hold 3 and more, and while that’s still likely to be a situation where you’re winning, it’s less fraught with the potential to be worth zero points on a given turn or mission. Overall how you’d plan for it isn’t too different, but there are more situations where you might take it.
No Mercy, No Respite
- Thin Their Ranks was replaced with No Prisoners. Like TTR, No Prisoners has you keep a tally of kill points, but whereas TTR was one tally per model destroyed and 10 for a model with 10+ wounds, No Prisoners has you tally the number of marks equal to the wounds characteristic of the model destroyed, but excludes VEHICLES, MONSTERS, and CHARACTERS from the count. You still score 1 VP per 10 tallies, rounded down, at the end of the battle. This is a transformative change, turning it from a way to punish horde armies into something much more effective against more elite armies with lots of multiwound models. A marines army sporting 5-6 squads’ worth of marines can easily put itself in position to give up 8-10 points for No Prisoners now and Death Guard units are just as susceptible. It’s also extremely rough on SWARM units like Scarabs and Rippers.
- While We Stand, We Fight was replaced with To the Last. To the Last basically works the same as the errata’d version of WWSWF except that it includes a rider for what happens when a unit chosen splits into multiple units – you’ll lose points for losing some of the models in these divided squads, and only score the full 5 if all of the separate units are on the table at the end of the battle. This is something that Ork buggy squadrons and Mek Gunz were particularly well-equipped to take advantage of, and changing it successfully mitigates a lot of the worst abuses.
Purge the Enemy
- Cut Off the Head has been removed. There’s no replacement for this secondary objective, which was, on the whole, pretty bad despite having some uses when you could hide its selection from the opponent using the Dark Angels’ Secret Agenda Stratagem.
- Assassination replaces Assassinate. They key difference here is that Assassinate awards you one extra VP for destroying a CHARACTER that also happens to be the enemy WARLORD.
- Bring It Down now incorporates the FAQ changes. This means it hasn’t changed since January – you get 1 VP for each enemy MONSTER or VEHICLE destroyed with 10 wounds or less, 2 for targets with 11-19 wounds, and 3 for targets with 20+ wounds.
- Titan Hunter changed. You now score 4 VP for destroying one enemy TITANIC model (rather than 10), 9 VP for destroying two (rather than 12), and 15 VP for destroying 3+. This is a welcome change that makes taking a single knight or Titanic unit much, much less onerous for armies and should have big impacts on army construction, especially alongside the change to Super Heavy Auxiliaries.
- Investigate Sites was replaced with Investigate Signal. Although WarCom talked about the timing on Investigate Sites being an issue – and it was – that hasn’t changed here (and it’s still an issue). Instead, the big change with Investigate Signal is that it now requires you to be wholly within 6″ of the centre of the battlefield to complete the action and requires an enemy unit to be wholly within 6″ of the centre of the battlefield to block you from completing it. It’s still worth 3 VP for each time you complete the action. The “wholly within” clause makes it much more difficult to both attempt and block this one, and sufficiently large units may find they aren’t even capable of pulling this one off. On the whole, this one feels like the biggest dud of the changes, just given how difficult it will be on some missions to make that “wholly within 6″” clause work (especially on your first turn), and because a determined opponent can still near-perfectly block you if they’re willing to commit to it.
- Deploy Scramblers was replaced with Retrieve Octarius Data. Good old Deploy Scrambers was replaced. The new Secondary allows you to attempt the Retrieve Data action, which non-CHARACTER INFANTRY units can attempt at the end of your Movement phase if it is wholly within a table quarter where you haven’t attempted the action yet. At the end of the battle you score 4 VP if you did the action twice, 8 VP for doing it three times, and 12 VP if you performed the action in every table quarter. As a replacement for Deploy Scramblers, this is both somewhat easier to do (and now you won’t get zero points for only completing it twice), but also harder to max out – sure, the potential max of 12 is higher, but scoring 8 VP will likely be a more common occurrence. One thing to note here is that your unit has to be more than 6″ away from another table quarter when performing the action, making it nearly impossible to pull this off with a single unit.
- Teleport Homer was replaced with Deploy Teleport Homers. The new secondary allows you to attempt the Deploy Teleport Homer action with an INFANTRY or BIKER unit (one big change) that is wholly within 12″ of the opponent’s deployment zone (note that this means they can be outside the opponent’s deployment zone), and the action is completed as the end of your next Command phase as long as they stay wholly within that area. You score 2 VP each time you complete this action, unless you’re wholly within your opponent’s deployment zone proper, in which case you score 4 VP. This is just a straight upgrade, giving you a half-points option that’s easier to score and an action that BIKER units can attempt.
- Abhor the Witch includes the January 2021 errata. Those changes have stuck here – you score 3 VP for each enemy PSYKER CHARACTER unit destroyed, and 2 VP for each other enemy PSYKER unit destroyed.
- Mental Interrogation was replaced with Psychic Interrogation. You now score 3 VP each time you complete the Psychic Interrogation action (WC 4), which can be attempted while you’re within 24″ of any visible enemy CHARACTER models. The extra range here is the big change and a boost, but it comes with the “visible” restriction that Mental Interrogation didn’t have and it makes the secondary potentially much trickier to score. That depends a lot on terrain though, and on lighter boards this will generally help.
- Psychic Ritual was replaced with Warp Ritual. You now keep a tally of ritual points each time you complete the Warp Ritual action (WC 3), which can be attempted while your PSYKER CHARACTER is within 6″ of the centre of the battlefield. At the end of the battle you get 3 VP for doing this once, 7 for doing it twice, or 12 VP for completing the action 3+ times. This is also an area where they’ve jettisoned the all-or-nothing approach to a secondary, and it’s very much to the benefit of the secondary, making this one much more generally viable (even if there are a very small number of armies that preferred the old one). You also don’t have to do every single action with the same Psyker, another huge improvement when it comes to ease of completion.
In addition to the mission changes, there was one other key rules changes in the new rules that’s worth pointing out.
Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachments are a bit less painful
Something that got missed in all the fervor around the new missions was this gem from the army construction rules – if your army has one or more Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachments, you can change the Command Benefit of one of them to “+2 Command Points,” provided the unit in that detachment is not your Warlord and it shares a faction keyword with your Warlord that isn’t IMPERIUM, CHAOS, AELDARI, YNNARI, or TYRANIDS. This is a huge change for anyone who’s wanted to include a faction’s Lord of War unit but was completely turned off by having to pay a massive 3 CP for the privilege of taking a Monolith or Astreus Super-Heavy tank. This new rule fixes one of 9th edition’s main issues, not rewarding players for souping in an Imperial Knight while simultaneously giving them a much more viable cost for taking a Lord of War that’s in your faction rules. This is great news for anyone who owns a Forge World unit they’ve been dying to use.
Wings: Or a Wraithknight. You know. Picking an example entirely at random.
What’s Next: Point Changes and How This Affects Strategy
That wraps up our summary of the major changes but that’s far from everything – check back later today when we’ll have Nick Nanvati from the Art of War talking about how the secondary changes will affect competitive play and then again for our coverage of the 2021 Munitorum Field Manual points changes and what they mean for each faction. And as always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.