By Peyton Preece
Welcome, today I wanted to dive into the topic of scenario play in Warhammer 40,000 and any misconceptions that come with it. In the past editions the game of Warhammer 40,000 has been known for a shoot first score later mentality within its player base in regards to scenario. This has led to the perception that scenario play is less important or not important at all to the game. In the 9th edition of Warhammer of 40,000 scenario play is one of, if not the most important aspect of game play. Let’s dive into the different aspects of playing scenario optimally in Warhammer 40,000.
In 9th edition scenario play consists of 2 major aspects, the primary objectives and secondary objectives. Making sure at list construction that you can feasibly handle both of these aspects is paramount. However, within these two major aspects of the scenario there are some differences in play style and ways to score that should be discussed.
The primary objectives, which are the objective tokens on the board which both players will be competing to control, will determine where the battles for the game will be fought. The secondary objectives, which are goals for each player to complete during the game, dictate the play style of each player’s armies and foreshadow this, allowing the opponent some knowledge on how to best counter play the opposing army.
There will be either five or six objectives set on the battlefield; these will determine where your army will need to be over the course of the game. Holding these objectives at the start of your turn is the main way to score the 45 points dedicated to primary objectives.
You will need to hold either two or three of these at the start of your turn to score 8 of the possible 12 points for the turn. This is determined by the mission and is laid out in the mission rules. I find this expected value of 8 is the sweet spot for realistic scoring.
Scoring less than this starts to put you behind the eight ball in scenario play, however if you’re holding more than this I’ve found that either one player is in complete control of the game or has over committed their army. There are some exceptions to this, and that is extremely fast armies with lots of objective secured such as Necrons, Harlequins, and Drukhari.
These armies are very good at denying your opponent the primary score by taking control of the objectives on your opponent’s side of the table. However, these armies frequently struggle to hold their own objectives due to their relative fragility, and as such they may aim to keep both players’ primary score very low and win with excellent secondary scores.
In addition to holding objectives at the beginning of the turn, each mission has a unique way to score additional points (this still cannot take you over the 45 point maximum for primary). These are commonly referred to as tertiary points.
These tertiary points can range from killing units in specific places, to additional actions to holding specific zones at the end of turn or end of game. These tertiary objectives that allow for specific actions are not limited to infantry like most actions so keep that in mind. Doing actions with a Rhino for example can be very helpful if its contribution to the turn is otherwise going to be negligible.
In order to prepare for these in list construction, make sure you have good elements for trading and taking objectives combined with pieces that can spend a turn doing actions without impacting the effectiveness of the list.
As mentioned above transports such as Rhinos or Venoms can excel as action models, while the units that were in them such as Repentia or Incubi will excel in the tertiary objectives that incentivize killing or taking objectives from your opponent.
The above images show how on a 5 objective mission the Blood Angels have set up to control their home objective, the top objective, and the middle objective, while putting pressure on their opponent. This style works very well for very tough forces such as armies that benefit from Armor of Contempt or Custodes.
The above images show how harlequins will play to limit opponent secondary on 6 objective missions. Armies with lots of speed and good objective secured units like Aeldari and Necrons are very efficient in this play style.
The second half of the objective based points you can score in a game of Warhammer 40,000 come from the secondary objectives you select after seeing your opponents list.
The choice of what secondaries are taken will telegraph what the strategy of a given player is, and allow the opponent to start planning counter play based on those decisions.
With that in mind I break down secondary objectives into two categories – passive objectives and reactive objectives.
Passive objectives are objectives that would easily score the maximum points if your opponent does not interact with you to prevent it. Some examples of armies with this kind of objective include Sisters of Battle which take the secondaries A Leap of Faith, Defend the Shrine, and Sacred Ground.
A Leap of Faith
At the end of each player’s turn, if two Acts of Faith were performed by ADEPTA SORORITAS units from your army that turn, score 1 victory point if it is your turn or 2 victory points if it is your opponent’s turn. If three or more Acts of Faith were performed by ADEPTA SORORITAS units from your army that turn, score 1 additional victory point. Note that Acts of Faith performed due to Cherub dice bestowed by incensor cherubs do not count towards this secondary objective. You can score a maximum of 12 victory points from this secondary objective per battle.
Defend the Shrine
If you select this objective, during the Resolve Pre-battle Abilities step of the mission, select one objective marker on the battlefield not in your deployment zone to be the Sacred Shrine objective marker.
– At the end of your turn, score 3 victory points if you control the Sacred Shrine objective marker and an ADEPTUS MINISTORUM unit from your army is within range of that objective marker.
– At the end of the battle, if your opponent controls the Sacred Shrine objective marker, reduce the number of victory points you have scored from this secondary objective by 3.
If you select this objective, units from your army can attempt the following action:
Sacred Grounds (action): One or more ADEPTA SORORITAS INFANTRY or CULT IMPERIALIS PRIEST units from your army can start to perform this action at the end of your Movement phase. Each unit from your army that starts to perform this action must be within range of a different objective marker you control that has not been consecrated by your army. The action is completed at the start of your next Command phase or at the end of the battle. If completed, that objective marker is said to have been consecrated by your army, and until the end of the battle, that objective marker gains the Inspiring (ADEPTUS MINISTORUM) terrain trait.
Each time a unit from your army completes this action, if the objective marker that was consecrated by that action is wholly within your deployment zone, score 1 victory point; otherwise score 5 victory points.
A quick overview. A Leap of Faith is scored by the Sisters player spending Miracle Dice – which they will do every turn. Defend the Shrine makes taking the closest No-Mans Land objective critically important, but is also relatively easy to do on many of the Scenarios. Sacred Grounds is a very high pay off action which can easily score 10 or more points.
All three of these are extremely easy for the Sisters player to score if their opponent does nothing to actively prevent them from happening. Most of the time, these three secondaries can quite easily score 42 points out of the 45 maximum secondary objectives are allowed to account for.
This allows for Sisters players (or players whose factions have good passive secondaries) to build lists that focus on making these objectives work while keeping parity on primary objectives.
This also forces the opponent to make game choices in a particular way to counteract the high secondary scoring. Canny players can formulate game play that helps thwart these attempts to score high on secondaries because they require particular, predictable kinds of movement and game play.
Reactive Objectives are objectives which are not optimal in every game, but can be situationally better than Passive Objectives depending on the opposing armies composition.
Several armies such as Space Marines struggle to have 3 passive secondaries that they can reliably score, and as such rely on scoring one of these reactive secondaries to round out their secondary game.
Some examples of reactive secondaries would be Grind Them Down, Assassination, and Abhor the Witch.
Grind Them Down
Score 3 victory points at the end of the battle round if more enemy units than friendly units were destroyed this battle round.
Score 3 victory points at the end of the battle round for each enemy CHARACTER unit that is destroyed. At the end of the battle, if the enemy WARLORD is destroyed, score 1 extra victory point.
Abhor the Witch
You cannot select this secondary objective if your army includes any PSYKER units. Score 3 victory points at the end of the battle for each enemy PSYKER CHARACTER unit that is destroyed, and 2 victory points for every other enemy PSYKER unit that is destroyed.
All of these secondaries are occasionally excellent against specific armies. In general, I usually suggest not playing Assassination. However, against some factions that play many characters – Harlequins often play up to seven for example – it can be a highly beneficial choice. As always, this would need to be compared to the options that passive objectives give you.
In order to best make use of secondary objectives, I suggest during list construction you keep at least two passive objectives in mind and build for them, leaving room for one reactive secondary as your opponents list presents itself.
It is almost always better to build for three passive objectives, however most armies cannot accomplish this.
Hopefully this has helped give some understanding to scenario play in Warhammer 40,000. If you have thoughts on the topic let me know either here on the site or reach out to me on the LOS discord. Follow the rest of the LOS content on youtube, patreon or discord.