Friday, January 13, 2023

REVIEW: Arks of Omen - Grand Tournament Mission Pack (From an AoS Perspective)

Although I started out this hobby by playing 40k back in the mists of time known as 3rd edition, I've been primarily an AoS player for the last few years. Since 9th edition launched I've been slowly dipping my toe back into gaming on the 40k side and went to my first tournament this past Fall using the Nephilim book. Now a new Grand Tournament Mission Pack is upon us, with changes to how the Matched Play version of the game is played. Instead of a standard review of the book, I'm going to instead look at it through the lens of an AoS player. So, what does the Arks of Omen pack contain?

First off, a big thank you to Games Workshop for sending me a review copy of the Grand Tournament Mission Pack. If you're an AoS player like me, this is equivalent to the General's Handbook. It updates the rules for Matched Play with new missions, new ways to construct your army, and unique to 40k, new Secondary Objectives, including ones for each faction. This has recently moved from a yearly publication to a 6 month publication, ensuring the tournament scene stays fresh and adapts to the changing meta of the game as new Codexes are released.

Some of my Astral Claws from 6th/7th edition

Before I dive into this book, I want to talk a bit about the current state of 40k in general for those who are not familiar with the game. Like I said, I played 40k for well over a decade. In fact, it was my main game until Age of Sigmar came out, although I had started to drift towards Fantasy already a bit before that. I played a ton of 3rd edition when that was out, as well as 4th, and 5th. 6th edition is where my gameplay started to wane a bit, but this had more to do with my available gaming time. I wasn't really going to events yet at all (I went to the 40k Team Tournament at Adepticon once in 2009) and my life was busy with being fresh out of college and having to be an adult with a "real" job and what not. I probably played a handful of games of 7th (mostly at Adepticon in 2016 for a Badab War event) and only 1 game of 8th to test it out. Since 9th edition though I've played a whopping 10 or so games! I know it doesn't sound like a lot, but they've all been since this summer. The new edition and revamped Necron range made me take the plunge again. During the Covid lockdowns I got most of a 2,000 point Necron army painted, but never played any games with them. This past Fall I decided it was time to top off the army with the last few units, and take them to an event.

I played a couple of test games with them ahead of time, more to get familiar with the rules of 40k as opposed to the rules of my specific army, then right into the proving grounds of a Matched Play tournament at the largest event in Michigan, the Michigan GT. I decided to do the Matched Play event instead of the Crusade event, as it had less rules to learn and retain. I didn't want to have to worry about remembering all of the Crusade stuff on top of regular rules. I had a lot of fun playing in it, despite only winning 1 game (I think, might have been 0), but with several close games, which I take as a moral victory. My first opponent was particularly nice. I let him know how I hadn't played much 40k yet and he took the time to help educate me on mistakes I was making or rules I was forgetting. As an AoS player though there were a couple things I couldn't help but notice.

1. Everything's the Same, Everything's Different

AoS and 40k share a lot of the same framework. Like, a lot. Despite this, there are a lot of differences too. While in some respects this makes it easier to learn, it can also become a massive problem when playing the game. There are so many rules that are almost the same, but actually work differently, or stuff that shares similar names but works differently. If you're not careful this can result in you accidentally using the AoS version of the rules instead of the 40k version. With more practice this will become easier to separate, but I kind of wish the rulesets were either more inline with each other, or more divergent. They're very similar, but very different. Older 40k and Warhammer Fantasy obviously shared some similar mechanics, but were divergent enough that it was never really a problem.

2. Heroes Aren't as Heroic

If you're used to your heroes wading into battle and tipping the scales of battle in AoS you might be in for a rude awakening with 40k. Sure, there are some heroes in 40k who are combat monsters, but they're usually special characters or literal monsters. You're average Space Marine Captain on the other hand is more likely to die in combat with a unit than make a real difference. In AoS I feel like a lot of the heroes can hold their own, even the smaller ones. Or at least make a dent. In 40k it feels like they're there more to support and buff other units. Some of this has to do with their stats and being a bit weaker, but a lot of it, in my opinion anyway, has to do with the way Damage works in 40k. Which brings us to...

3. Damage Control

Damage doesn't spill over from one model to the next. There are some weapons with special rules that allow this, but for the most part, if you're using a damage 3 weapon against a unit of 10 guys and they fail their save, you're still only killing 1 guy. This means high damage weapons are better against heroes, vehicles, and multi-wound models. This is a huge difference, and something important to remember. Once you're playing it's usually not an issue, but if you're an AoS player, then in the army building phase it may catch you up. You'll see a bunch of high damage units and think they're an auto-include, but in reality they're not going to kill as many models as you think. This isn't a "bad" thing at all, jut different. Another difference, is that a model only has one pool of attacks, even if they have multiple weapons. You have to decide how you'll split them up, unlike in AoS where each weapon has its own number of attacks.

These guys are only 65 points for 10!

4. The Point of the Matter

My final point is about, well, points. In my experience, units in 40k on average cost a lot less points then units in AoS. This means your armies have the potential to be a lot bigger. This also means you'll need a lot more units to have a 2,000 point army, and paint a lot more units. Again, not inherently a bad thing, but sometimes it can be a bit demotivating to have to put a lot of effort into what amounts to a 60 point unit. Obviously you can play stuff like Custodes or Knights which have a lot less models, but even an elite army like Space Marines will have a lot more models in it then a comparable elite army in AoS.

So, now we move onto the Arks of Omen: Grand Tournament Mission Pack. I'll touch a bit on the updates, but I also just want to talk a bit about how this is structured in general compared to the General's Handbook. Let's start off with the physicality of it. It's not spiral bound like in AoS. This is very odd to me, as the spiral binding for AoS is fantastic and makes it so easy to flip to the page you need and keep it open during a game. Instead, in 40k, it's a normal book binding, meaning you can't really keep it open unless you crease your book.

At the very front of the book there is a little summary going over all of the main changes since the last one, which is fantastic! Sometimes it's very easy to glaze over changes if you're not as familiar with the rules, so having a neat little summary laying it all out for you is great.

This is followed by the main updates to Matched Play. This includes things like how to build your army, select missions, generate command points, and so on. Basically all of the rules for Matched Play. In Arks of Omens we get one of the biggest changes to army construction since the edition started. In 40k you use things called detachments to build your armies. There were a bunch to choose from depending on if you wanted a more balanced army, or elite heavy, etc. You could also take multiple, and they cost you command points to use, though some of them refunded you the points if your Warlord was part of it. All of that is gone now, replaced with the Arks of Omen detachment. This monster detachment costs 0 CP to use, and is extremely flexible. Letting you either focus in on Troops, Elites, Fast Attack, Heavy Support, or Lords of War as your required units, with a bunch more optional to take. It also ups the number of HQ to 4 and lets you include Lords of War (really big tanks and stuff like Primarchs) and Fortifications as part of your main detachment. Previously these were usually taken as add-on detachments, costing you extra command points. As a Necron player this last point is huge as I can now take a Monolith, their coolest vehicle, with no penalty.

Every game now starts with 6 command points as well, regardless of the points size. There are a bunch of things that carry over from the last book as well, such as units being limited to 3 of the same unit in 2,000 point games, and Warlord Traits and Artifacts costing command points to equip. Another big change is the inclusion of a rule called Battle Brothers. This allows certain factions to take an allied Patrol Detachment or Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachment where it makes sense in the lore. Such as Knights and Votann allying with Imperial armies, or demons with Chaos armies. A Patrol Detachment is a smaller, more restricted detachment with less units. Not every faction has access to allies, such as Necrons and Tyranids.

One of the things that's most unique to 40k though is the list of secondary objectives. Unlike in AoS, where you have a new battle tactic you pick each turn and a grand strategy for the end of the game, in 40k you pick 3 secondary objectives at the start of the game and use them throughout. Some will score you points each turn while some only score at the end. There's a whole selection of generic ones that any army can pick from, which get updated slightly with each Grand Tournament Mission Pack, but each army also gets it's own selection of unique ones to pick from.

Each army gets 3 secondary objectives, which is a change from last time since some had more than that, like Necrons, which had 4 you could pick from. Some sub-factions, like specific Space Marine Chapters, also get an additional one they can choose from. These have all been tweaked from last time, with the Necrons getting a little debuff to theirs. I actually really like this whole system. Battle Tactics in AoS are cool, but I couldn't tell you how many times I completely forget to pick one at the start of a turn until I'm half way through it. I like the simplicity of just having 3 to think about the whole game. I also really like how these are updated with each new Grand Tournament Mission Pack, making sure nothing is too good. I know quite a few AoS tournaments have banned the Battle Tactics and Grand Strategies from individual Battletomes since some of them are way easier to score than others. Having them updated on a regular basis would fix this, and also free up space in the Battletomes themselves for other things.

After all of this we get all of the missions. I don't have a ton of experience with 40k, so it's hard for me to comment on them, or on any changes made to them. You get a selection of missions for Incursion games (1,000 points) and then another selection for Strike Force games (2,000 points).

All in all, I'm still pretty excited for 40k, and the changes in this Grand Tournament Mission Pack, especially the new detachment chart, look like a ton of fun. You can really make some unique and themed armies with it. Are you an AoS player looking at trying out 40k, or someone who recently dipped their toes in? What are your thoughts on the difference between the two games and how their respective Matched Play modes are organized and presented?

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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