Book in hand! A new GH is arguably the biggest event in the AOS calendar, and I’ll be exploring all aspects of it over the course of a few distinct articles: today we kick off today with the Battleplans, and I’ve already got in a few games (including a one-dayer) under the new book.
To give what follows a bit of context, I’ll be mixing in my early first-hand experience, during which I’ve been running the following list:
Allegiance: Ogor Mawtribes
– Mawtribe: Boulderhead
Frostlord on Stonehorn (400)
– Command Trait: Lord of Beasts
– Artefact: Brand of the Svard
– Mount Trait: Black Clatterhorn
Frostlord on Stonehorn (400)
– Mount Trait: Metalcruncher
Huskard on Stonehorn (320)
– Blood Vulture
– Mount Trait: Old Granitetooth
4 x Mournfang Pack (280)
– Gargant Hackers
Stonehorn Beastriders (300)
Stonehorn Beastriders (300)
Total: 2000 / 2000
Extra Command Points: 0
Allies: 0 / 400
I’m currently 8-0 with this army, having played against good players with good armies, casual players with meme armies, and every combo in between. I obviously say this to boast, but also to illustrate that my experience will hopefully be relevant to all different types of player. But mainly to boast.
Ok, now let’s smash into it.
First up is…
Forcing The Hand
Oh man. I’ve played this Battleplan a couple of times now: I took on Adam Bray’s Fyreslayers when the mission was leaked, and against Corey Ford’s Ironsunz at Measured Gaming’s one-dayer in Bendigo. It’s amazing, believe it.
This is similar in some ways to Relocation Orb (more of which below), but so much better.
The way it works is that you effectively set your opponent a challenge each turn. There are 6 Objectives, worth 1 VP each, but the twist is this: on each player’s turn, their opponent nominates one of the Objectives on their own side of the board to be the Primary Objective, which is instead worth 3 VPs.
It’s over here. Come and take it.
Everything about this works like a dream. Six Objectives stretches the board, which is always a strong starting point for a dynamic Battleplan. The requirement to project power in multiple directions asks questions of players, and asks questions of their list; it forces a constantly evolving stream of decisions, and that, my friends, is the spice of life.
We do need to recognise that in the occasional matchup, one player will just set up camp with something like 20 Blight Kings and continually nominate the Primary right underneath their fat ass:
Where the mission does help though is that the Priority Objective is one of 6 and not one of 3. If your opponent sets up their little castle, you can contest the others and still score heavily.
It’s not perfect – games with castling armies rarely are – but the mission does give you an out, and that’s a big tick from me.
Be aware that once you measure 12″ back from that zig zag line, your deployment zone is quite restrictive and you’re pushed out to the edges more than you might think. It could be worth having a practice deployment if you’re going to be playing this at an event, but failing that, if you’ve got a big important unit you might want to place that first so you don’t cock block yourself.
Another pointer I’d have is that although the board looks symmetrical visually, not all points are equally easy to access early on. If I remember Pythagoras correctly from school, you can be no closer than 24″ from the top and bottom Objectives, but a smidge under 17″ from your opponent’s Objective along the centre line. If you want to pressure at the top of 1, you’ll need faster units top and bottom, slower units in the centre.
In the image below, you can see that despite being close to the 12″ line, the Mournfang are quite a bit closer to the green Objective than the Red one, right before my opponent tried ramming two Maw Krushas down my throat:
If I wanted to pressure that red Objective, I would have needed to place a Stonehorn there instead. Luckily for me those cabbages bounced, and I was able to go through Corey’s Ironjawz pretty quickly after that, but in the same mission against Adam’s Fyreslayers it was a lot more cagey.
I spent the latter stages of that game running away onto the wide Objectives, and clung on by my fingernails 20-17. If we’d both just pushed our models into the middle, Hermdar wins that 100 times out of 100, so I think this is a great example of how a well-designed scenario in AOS really levels the playing field. Having only a handful of ultra powerful, but slow units can become a liability in some missions, and this is one of them. I love it.
Honestly, if this is what Age of Sigmar was – just playing this mission over and over, on a loop – I still don’t think I’d get bored of it. It really is that good.
The Blade’s Edge
Did you see it? First time I read this, I thought it looked bland as fuck, because I’d skimmed right over the heartbeat of the mission (right there in the Objectives section): “At the start of each battle round after the first, the player taking the second turn in that battle round can pick 1 objective on the battlefield and remove it from play.”
There ya go! It’s genuinely exciting to see a mechanic that gives the winner of the priority roll a dilemma. Relocation Orb (there it is again) had the kernel of a great idea, but it was wildly overdone to the extent that it often took the dilemma right out of your hands.
With Blade’s Edge however, as the game goes on, the equation becomes tighter, and tighter, and tighter, like a python wrapping itself round both armies. The Objectives are already unusually close together (only 6″ back from the centreline), and as you get deeper in the game, you’ll be clustered around fewer and fewer points on the board.
This Battleplan will give you stories – we’ve seen scenarios where you burn Objectives, but not without having to cap them first, and it’s hard to overstate the importance of that. I’m already waiting for the game where some bright spark sets up his Stone Elves, with Teclis and the big cow, so everything is in pretty little bubbles of after saves and negatives to hit. Their whole army is effectively Ethereal, and their whole army effectively has Stone Skeleton.
And then you say so fucking what, and whip the Objective away from under them. What else ya got?
So although it’s a pretty straightforward point to make, I’d be looking for opportunities to get ahead early, then suck away your opponent’s oxygen by giving up priority and whipping away their key Objectives.
I did play this one at the weekend against a thematic Cities of Sigmar army, with 202 bodies, 200 of which were pointing loaded firearms at my 9 models. They were all ignoring Battleshock in their own territory, so I would have to kill all 202 of them. And I did. Huzzah!
Honestly it was a pretty bad matchup for my opponent Chris (who was an absolute gent) so there wasn’t much to learn specific to the mission, but I did pull off one manoeuvre that will be good to bear in mind against Cities.
Finish a charge within 3″ of their Handgunners and you’ll take a round of Dakka to the face, so the workaround is to charge a nearby unit instead. Declare your intent, get the combat gauge out, and finish up 3.00001″ from those Handgunners. Then we move on to the combat phase: you pile in around the base of whatever you’ve charged, you’re now in melee with those goons and ready to rip their fucking heads off. Those pea shooters aren’t going to help them now!
A key thing here is to make sure you select your charging unit to pile in first, so you don’t get base-locked in position away from your true target:
Stonehorns being Stonehorns, I charged the Hero right off the table before we even got into Combat, so you will just have to pretend he’s there (X marks the spot where he fell). But you get the picture.
What’s Not There
Duality of Death goes in the bin. Static, boring, deploy first and bunker the fuck up.
You will not be missed.
Relocation Orb was something of a curate’s egg. This was a fantastic idea, but poorly executed. I love the idea of giving people a strong reason to defer after winning the priority roll; 3 points to 1 just went too far. Win the roll off, give it away. Repeat and your opponent is fucked.
I didn’t hate this as much as most competitive players did, but I can see why it was retired, and the seeds of a good idea have been executed much more effectively in the new missions.
Refined and Reloaded
How about the Battleplans that have been reworked? Hey Ho, Let’s Go.
Knife to the Heart
You deploy diagonally, and further apart. Slightly increases the probability of stand-off bore-draws, which is a bad thing. In the context of the wider book, however, we might have some good news. The main purpose of this mission in practice is to “Split the field”: because it’s perceived as being hard to get a Major Win, a lot of TOs like to include it as Game 3 to get a couple of Minors out there, and sort out the pack going into Day Two.
I’ve long thought that was a red herring; I’d love to know the stats on it, but my gut feel is that if anything it rewards people for getting a good draw more than for playing well. There aren’t really many decisions to make other than crush your opponent if you outmatch them, ping away with ranged output if you have it, or sit back and play for the minor if you’re that way inclined.
With the new Auxilliaries, which I will cover in a separate article, I’m optimistic that TOs will see less need to put this in their packs. If you do want an instawin mission, Blood and Glory from the Core Book is just straight up better, so hopefully this one can be parked.
This is the one where you get a bonus VP for stealing an Objective back from an opponent. I’m taking this opportunity to call out the Great Total Conquest Fallacy.
I’ve heard so many people say that they chose not to cap because if their opponent then takes it back off them, they’d give up 2 VPs.
Well – so what?
If you cap and they take it back, you’ve scored 1 to their 2. So you’re 1 down on the deal.
If you don’t bother, they score 1 to your 0. So you’re 1 down on the deal.
See what I mean? In both cases, you are 1 VP behind and in position to nick it back for 2 of your own.
Don’t fall into that trap. Assess it like any other Objective. If you have something cheap that you can trade favorably, take it and make them trade. If you can tank it out, tank it out. If you can do neither, give your opponent difficult decisions like splitting their forces.
By letting them just walk onto it with any old crap, you’re in exactly the same position for VPs, but you’ve let your opponent dictate the flow of the game. Don’t do that.
This mission is pretty cool because you can get big swings in momentum: you now also get a bonus VP for having a Leader nearby when you control a point. This does feel like it might reward the Haves over the Have Nots: given the amount of shooting and splash mortal wounds in the meta, small support Heroes and the armies that depend on them are looking slightly fucked already, and this could exacerbate that.
You might well not have those guys on table after a couple of turns, and if you do, you are scarcely in a position to frontline them for the sake of a VP. If you’re lucky enough to have durable Heroes, like Kroak sitting on his Balewind with Saurus soaking up the damage, then it’s all gravy.
I’m not super keen on that change personally, because it feels a bit like being rewarded again for having good rules, but it’s certainly something to consider in list design if you see it in a tournament pack.
And hey, my Stonehorns aren’t complaining.
Battle for the Pass
The same but better. A classic mission, a staple of Matched Play, and still endlessly engaging. And best of all: no longer do we have to endure the drudgery of that triangular deployment zone. It was cool that it rewarded speed (or teleporting), but it was just too much of a pain in the arse.
Anyone who can set up a durable little base on their home objective and still project power is in a great position. So that would be another good one for Seraphon, then.
Another improvement. Last year’s 2D6 is gone, replaced by the classic D3 roll. 2D6 was an interesting idea, but it gave the illusion of being more random while actually being more predictable. You could play the percentages, jam up the middle, hope it would land there and it probably would.
The D3 roll is a true crap shoot, and genuinely exciting every time. Much better.
This was the third mission that we played at our one-dayer, and boy was it good for my Stonehorns! It’s nice to see the Monster keyword actually being useful, rather than purely a burden for things like Lookout Sir, so in that sense I think it’s the most impactful of the new scoring bonuses based on Battlefield Roles.
What I like here is that they’ve covered both bases between the Monster keyword and the Behemoth battlefield role. In the past they’ve focused exclusively on the former, which means that you get weird loopholes like huge Not Monsters benefiting from Lookout Sir; I’m glad that Ironclads for example won’t fall between the cracks.
This is still not as good as the 2018 edition, which was on the diagonal and meant that games really pivoted around the centre, but it’s a modern classic mission and a worthy inclusion in any pack.
Yeah – bring Stonehorns. Seriously, if this is in a Tournament Pack, you will need to strongly consider putting Monsters or Behemoths in your list, because it’s a high-scoring mission that can be skewed quite heavily.
I played this one in Round 3 at the weekend against Dalton’s Big Waaagh, and it was one for the ages. I blasted out to an early lead with those bonuses to scoring, but the Orruks were all-too-capable of lifting off a couple of Stonehorns a turn, so by the end it was a very tight equation. Every priority roll was heart stopping, every charge was critical, every body on every objective mattered. Dalton tabled me, but I ended up hanging on 29-28 for the Major Win in another vintage installment in our rolling personal rivalry*.
The two things I would take from this matchup are first and foremost, if you have fewer monsters than your opponent, the scoring can get out of hand fast. Dalton scored 2 points on his cagey first turn, and I then max-capped for 13; if I’d won the first priority, that puts me on 26 points at the top of turn 2, and the game would already be beyond him at that point because he simply can’t score as many points as I can. Playing cautiously is not a low-risk strategy in this case, in fact quite the opposite.
Secondly, I picked Objective based Auxiliaries for this one, because they’d been serving me so well up until that point; I really should have chosen Objectives based around units dying, because that was simply inevitable in the matchup.
I finished the event at 3-0 which put me level with Rohit Thomas and his Skaven (More More Points Drops!). Roh deservedly took out the event on Auxiliaries as the tie breaker, so the selection proved to be quite important.
Going forward, I wouldn’t be adverse to choosing The Bait, particularly if I’m looking at a score ‘n’ scramble strategy on a fast, high scoring mission like this one.
Still 8 Objectives, still D3 for burning your opponent’s from Round 2 onwards. Wide deployment now, and perhaps more importantly, another one where the Objectives interact with Leaders.
You can’t burn an Objective while your opponent has a Leader within 6″ of it, and you score an extra VP for burning an Objective while you have a Leader within 6″ of it.
This one favours shooting / ranged mortals to snipe out those Heroes, rewards armies who are already blessed with durable Heroes (and Battalions that include them in a low-drop package), and incentivises pushing your Heroes forward before you start burning (great for frontline Heroes like Stonehorns).
A pretty interesting proposition all up.
The Better Part of Valour
Again it’s flipped from longways to wide ways. As always, you burn your own Objectives in this one, and the longer you hold them, the more points you score. What’s changed is that only Battleline can cap, and only within 3″. It’s also easier to take it off your opponent in combat than it is with shooting.
This one is a headfuck in a good way, creating horrible dilemmas as the game gets stretched late on. And although the game wasn’t really crying out for Battleline to get a boost (we’re all taking them anyway), it is interesting that they’ve done it in a scenario with 8 Objectives – we’re not all taking that many!
All we need now is for Snotling Pump Wagons to be made Battleline If, and we’ve got a new meta on our hands, ladies and gents.
The Primary Objective still jumps around the centreline at random, but it’s only worth 2 VPs now (rather than 3) so the variance is less pronounced. The other change is that you now score an extra VP for having a Battleline unit within 6″ of an Objective you control.
Although I appreciate the symmetry of having another Battlefield role gain bonuses, being rewarded for building a block of hyper-durable Battleline is not something I think the game needs. Those are already the units that are best at capturing Objectives – you’re really not putting yourself out on a limb or thinking outside the box by capping with a tanky Battleline unit.
With all the Objectives jammed along the middle, this is a static mission with few tough choices to make, and will often up boiling down to:
“Push your models together and see who wins”
Or even worse:
“I outdrop you and have 60 Blightkings, do you want to keep playing?”
Shaping up to be the new Duality of Death, and not one I’m hoping to see too much of in all honesty.
Places of Arcane Power
Hero missions very rarely make it into competitive packs in Australia these days, and this one may continue to be squeezed out by the new generation of “cap with anything, but bonuses for Leaders” scenarios. Worth noting that it is improved over earlier versions, because you can no longer pull the ultimate dick move of teleporting away from the Objective and keeping control of it (because it’s a set up, and you therefore haven’t technically finished a move outside of 3″ from it); I’m pretty shameless, but not even I would have the brass neck to pull that one.
For that reason, I think we’ll continue to see this one as a niche Battleplan only.
Or Total Bullshit as legendary Stormcast Wanker Adam Burt refers to it. This one hasn’t changed at all: you still get substantial bonus VPs for capturing points in your opponent’s territory, and you still can’t set anything up off the board. I like the idea of a mission based around pure aggression, with the Objectives spread out along all four edges of the board, but the No Reserves thing really rubs some people up the wrong way, and understandably so.
I respect the idea of it: we’ve whipped away your crutch, what else have you got? Where it falls down is that it narrowly focuses on a single small mechanic and pounds it into the dirt, and worse, that mechanic is not even a crutch for the top armies. Who suffers from this? Stormcast, Nighthaunt, and Idoneth. Only the last of these could be in any way described as an army that leans on its crutch; the others need help, if anything.
As a suggestion for next year, I’d suggest tweaking the No Reserves rule to state that no units can be set up on the Battlefield in the first Battleround. You can either set it up during deployment, or hold it back for Battleround 2 onwards, so it isn’t just slain. This would mean it’s not so brutally punishing on armies who simply want to use their Battle Trait; you may just lose your Plan A and have to come up with something else instead.
It would nip a few things in the bud, such as:
- Auto-teleporting Flamers in your face and blasting away
- Auto-teleporting Salamanders in your face and blasting away
- Chucking entire Hallowheart gunlines across the Bridge, into your face and blasting away
- Alpha-bunkers in general
- No Retreat Tzeentch Horrors in particular
This would challenge far more on-meta builds to come up with something original, and nudge you to actually play Warhammer. That’s got to be preferable and closer to the intent than forcing some poor bugger to start his Loonsmasha Fanatics on the table.
I should point out that although people often think of Heroes and Leaders interchangeably (and I have trampled carelessly through that minefield myself above), that’s not entirely accurate: Gotrek (for example) is a Hero (keyword) but not a Leader (Battlefield Role). So no bonus VPs for the Wee Man on those scenarios.
One last thing worth pointing out is that the bonus VPs for having a certain unit types within range of the Objective are contingent on that Objective being under your control – but not necessarily by that unit.
What’s the difference?
Well as per the core rules (Page 10), a given model can only contribute to capturing one Objective:
So you might think that a Behemoth (for example) could only earn a bonus VP on one Objective at a time: but that’s not the case. If you have a big enough base (Stonehorns don’t quite cut it), you can cover multiple Objectives with a single Monster, and harvest the bonus VPs from all of them.
You’d have to have at least one other unit around to actually capture the Objectives, but as long as that’s the case, you’re golden. You’re not actually capturing the Objective with these models – you’re scoring VPs for being within 6″ of them. This is a subtle but important difference – and has got me keen to give my Skitterstrand Arachnaroks a run out, deep striking Monsters on pie plate bases FTW!
My ideal spread of missions might look something like this:
|Round 1: Starstrike||Loads of exciting, memorable moments for those grudges|
|Round 2: Focal Points||A classic all-rounder with a modern Behemoths twist|
|Round 3: Scorched Earth||No need for KTTH with Auxiliaries; make this your Leaders mission|
|Round 4: Forcing the Hand||Give people time for some overnight Theoryhammer|
|Round 5: The Blade’s Edge||A balanced mission that will give us some great stories|
One thing I’d urge caution on is accidentally including too many Leaders missions, which I’ve tried to work around here.
This might also be the first time I’ve seen Battle for the Pass or its equivalent squeezed out of my dream lineup, although it easily could be included: there really is an embarrassment of riches on offer.
This was a triumph: taken as a package, these missions are superb.
If the cost of this book is seen purely as annual subscription for playing Matched Play, it would be worth Every. Frikking. Cent.
We’re going to have a great year playing these scenarios, believe me.
Grade: A+, no bullshit
*In case you were wondering, mine and Dalton’s rivalry began at Badgacon 2017 when we both rocked up with identical armies: Stonehorns, Thundertusks and Kunnin Rukks. And when I say identical, I mean identical, down to the same Command Traits, artefacts, everything.
I got the Major Win that day and went on to win the event, which has no specific relevance to the GH20 Battleplans, but I just wanted to throw it out there. That’s the beauty of having your own little soapbox, hey.