Good morning, ladies and gentlemen (or evening, depending on your locale)! Today, I want to cover a rarely discussed topic: Objectives. Objectives are essentially the win condition for most games of competitive 40k, and yet they’re one of the least discussed aspects of the game strategically. If you’re going to center your entire game plan around holding poker chips on a table, shouldn’t you try to optimize their placement?
First, I think it’s vital to identify the different factors that you should consider from an objective placement standpoint:
-Your army’s overall strategy and play style
-Your opponent’s overall strategy and play style
I’m going to preface all the things you should do when placing objectives by showing what NOT to do. Here, we see a standard table with objectives scattered about fairly evenly. This layout fundamentally demonstrates two players who didn’t think strategically about where they were placing objectives. Rather, they just put them “where they felt like” or “where they looked fine.” You will rarely find a situation where both armies and players want an evenly dispersed and moderately spread objective placement like that. While you and your opponent’s goals may align on where to place objectives (typically mirror matches or similar style lists), they still don’t want them in this conservative, middle-of-the-road objective placement.
Many army styles naturally gravitate towards board control, combat capability, and keeping their forces centralized. Examples of this include Tyranids, Ork hordes, Iron Hands, etc. When playing with this type of list, place objectives so you don’t have to go out of your way to score them. You want to capture objectives as your army functions normally.
Here’s a great example of how to set objectives as someone who plans on moving his army into the middle of the table. All the objectives are centrally placed, and 12″ from at least any other two objectives (as close as they can be). Imagine a horde of Intercessors sitting in the middle of the table there. They would own four objectives, meaning they can just sit there in the middle of the board doing nothing (their natural state of being) while simultaneously winning the game.
Now, you may be wondering why your opponent would let you do such a thing, but it’s actually super easy to set up. Imagine your opponent placed the first objective in the center, a conservative and natural move. You can respond by placing the objective on the right-hand side under the orange tape measure. Your opponent, who is “smart,” doesn’t want to load one side full of objectives against a board control horde, so he sets another objective on the far left, opposite the objective you just placed. You are now able to place the objective pictured at the bottom, creating the diamond pattern featured above where your Poxwalkers can sit in happiness.
On the flip side, some armies who like to sit far away and maximize their mobility (I’m looking at you Eldar, DE, GK) want to spread the objectives as far as possible to leverage their speed advantage.
If you look closely, you can see two objectives in the bottom corners, two in a line down the middle, and one in the top right corner. This setup is what would likely happen if the opponent of the Poxwalkers in the same above scenario placed objectives strategically. To demonstrate how it would work, Player A (playing Eldar) places the objective in the top right-hand corner. Player B places his first objective on the middle line of the board but nearest that objective to create a zone for him to camp his Poxes. Player A responds and places an objective in the bottom left, opposite to his initial placement. Player B places his last objective in the center of the board, still within that little objective zone he’s created, but also acknowledging that he may have to work to capture the last objectives. Finally, Player A places his final objective in the bottom right corner, far away from that little objective castle.
But, what if you have an army that doesn’t particularly care where the objectives are due to its flexible play style? Simple: you try and determine what your opponent wants to do, and then actively place objectives to make his life as hard as possible. Remember, in this case, value taken away from the enemy = value gained for yourself.
Now that I’ve covered how strategic objective placement and army styles interact, let’s talk about terrain. One useful and relatively common tactic players employ when placing objective is putting them near line of sight blocking terrain so that a unit can hold the objective while being hidden from enemy shooting. This is an excellent tactic and one you should certainly make use of, but be cognizant of when NOT to do it. There’s no point in going out of your way to place an objective behind terrain against pox walkers that don’t have guns, for example. This can work against you; if your opponent can get to your hidden objective, he can start controlling it while being immune to your shooting! The point here is to consider your opponent when making choices. Don’t just go into autopilot.
Another aspect of objective placement that is seldom talked about is height. Unless the tournament you’re attending states objectives to be infinite height, placing them on different altitudes around the table can have a considerable impact on the game.
On the left picture above, we see a very happy Maulerfriend holding an objective. Everyone loves a happy Marulerfriend. He’s adorable. And on the right, we see a very sad Maulerfriend who hasn’t learned how to climb stairs. On the other hand, the Autarch with his fancy-schmancy Jetbike is quite content sitting at the top of the ruin, holding an objective, and shooting his shuriken catapults at the poor Maulerfriend.
The next thing I want to cover is deployment style and objectives. This concept is more abstract, but understand that as the deployment style changes, the middle of the table and the edges of the table also change with it. So, be aware of how different deployments will fundamentally change where the game is played and act accordingly.
Finally, I think a huge topic to cover is stacking objectives. How many times has a game been decided because you got the side with all the objectives. While that may seem like luck, it could also be a byproduct of skill. If you are in a losing match up and need a little luck to go your way to win the game, maybe you should stack the objectives to one side and hope you win the roll. On the flip side, if you are on the favored side of a match up, you should actively try and spread the objectives to reduce the impact of winning the roll for sides.
Imagine in the above map, T’au is playing Hammer and Anvil against an Ork horde. The T’au player has most of the advantages because the deployment maximizes the distance between them, so he makes the classic T’au move and puts an objective deep into a deployment zone on the right.
*Note, he didn’t place his first objective in the center of the board because he read the first half of this article and learned placing an objective in the center against a board control army is bad.*
The Ork player recognizes he’s down the matchup and decides to act strategically (very un-Orky, I know). He responds by placing an objective on the same side as the T’au player’s objective (the right side). The T’au player wises up and puts his second objective on the left side to diversify the objective spread. The Ork player then doubles down and puts his second objective on the right side. Finally, the Tau player places his final objective on the left. From here, if the Tau player wins the roll for sides and chooses the objective stack, he’s just going to win a game he should have won anyway. However, if the Ork player wins the roll for sides, he may have flipped the odds so far in his favor that he actually wins the game.
As you can see, the difference between players placing objectives with care and thought is very different from players placing objectives with no rhyme or reason. There are strategic checkpoints in literally every aspect and every choice of 40k, and that’s part of what makes it so cool. So, next time you get out there and place your objectives, really try and think about where and why you’re placing. That’s all, for now, folks.