As I’ve mentioned before, the distinct lack of articles appearing here over the last few weeks is my XBOX’s fault. I have caught the console FPS bug and Szafraniec and I are knee-deep in Call of Duty 9:Black Ops II. But being a true 40k addict, I’ve been noticing distinct similarities popping up between the way I play my favorite FPS and the way I play my favorite tabletop war game.
Now, I’m by no means elite when it comes to Call of Duty. My kill/death ratio and accuracy are horrendous. You won’t find me on gamebattles or traveling to MLG events, I don’t have a fancy headset, and I don’t stream. I’d describe myself as an average CoD player who has to play smart to win. This series, which will likely last for about as long as I’m playing CoD, will focus on fundamental concepts that I think might be useful to players of CoD and players of 40k. We’re not talking high-end competitive stuff here, these are more along the lines of the fundamentals, the basics. I just found it interesting how similar some of these fundamental principals are, in these two very different games, on two very different platforms. So in today’s episode of Law School, we’ll be discussing arguably the most important fundamental theme in both 40k and CoD: playing the objectives.
Play the Objectives
The most important piece of advice I can give out to anyone who wants to win more games of 40k is simple and straightforward: play the mission. This of course requires you to read the mission, as some TOs (particularly at the FLGS level) delight in coming up with wonky rules and conditions in the name of “fun”. But make no mistake, most of the time, winning 40k is all about having your scoring units in the right places at the end of the game and keeping your opponent from doing the same. 40k is a game of positioning. Yet all too often we see players whose sole focus throughout the game is destroying as much of the opponent’s army as possible. What’s worse, these players will prioritize the scariest units in their opponent’s army, or even the closest, not the units which are most strategically important. Often these players don’t even start thinking about the mission until the last turns, if at all. By then, it’s usually too late. These same players are the ones likely to be discouraged when they’ve destroyed the bulk of their opponent’s army but still lose the game on objectives, or quarters, or whatever the mission may be.
No, really, play the Objectives
This is an important point and if we can bring it home to just one more 40k player with this article, it will be well worth it. It doesn’t matter how much damage you do to your opponent’s army if he still has more scoring units in better scoring positions than you do at the end of the game.
Uh, GK, Aren’t you forgetting about kill points games?
Like it or not, understand that “whatever the mission may be” is usually going to be some form of objective-claiming. This is especially relevant in 6th edition, where 5 of the 6 book missions are objective-based. So that means if you want to win the mission, most of the time you’re going to need a plan in place to grab those objective markers. That planning starts at army creation, continues through deployment and every phase of every turn thereafter. And you need to give yourself the tools to do it. Since 6th edition started, we’ve been harping on the list design principles of mobility and durable scoring units. These are fundamentals for a successful list in 6th ed. You can’t just pick the coolest, killiest units in your codex and hope to table your opponent every time, because that’s just not going to happen. You need scoring units that can get to objectives (mobility) and keep those objectives (durability).
Location, location, location
40k is a game of positioning. Can you get your units where they need to be, and keep them there? Can you block your opponent’s scoring units from getting where they need to be, and/or eliminate dug-in scoring units once they’re there? You can’t ignore the possibility of kill points, and lots of tournaments like to throw kill points in as secondary or tie-breaker missions. You’ll find that most armies built to secure (and deny) objectives through mobility and durability also do well in kill points games. That’s because their durable units are less likely to give up kill points, and they have the mobility to bring firepower to bear where it is most beneficial.
Now what the hell does this have to do with Call of Duty?
Believe it or not, Call of Duty is also a game of positioning. What, you thought it was a shooting game? Remember the vast majority of Call of Duty’s game modes are objective-driven. Domination, Hardpoint, Capture the Flag, Headquarters, etc. are all won and lost not by how many opponents you’ve killed but by an objective-based score. Shooting opponents is simply a byproduct of achieving these objectives.
Just like in 40k, CoD players who ignore the objectives and just go for kills will often wind up with loads of kills but a terrible win/loss record. I routinely win games only to discover afterword that my opponents had double or even triple my kill count and a vastly superior KDR, but contributed little to their team’s objective score.
Who needs Slayers?
Well, competitive teams do. Some of the elite competitive CoD players, the kind with sponsors and jerseys and live streams and tournament wins under their belt, will tell you there are two main roles on a CoD team. First you have the slayers, whose job it is to focus on killing enemy players, disrupting the enemy team’s plans, sewing chaos, and working up to those game-changing top-end kill/scorestreaks. Then you have the Objective players, whose sole job is to claim and defend the objectives. Obj players’ life expectancy is lower, and accordingly they usually run the lower-end, support-oriented kill/scorestreaks. Both roles require tremendous skill, map awareness, and flexibility to play at a competitive level. Both are essential to having a successful tournament team.
Well, that may be true. But we’re not talking about tournament level CoD for the best of the best. We’re talking about your average day-in day-out public game, on random maps, with random teammates – the kind hundreds of thousands of us are playing on a daily basis. In short, we’re talking about ordinary games against average players like us. And if you want to win more of those games than you lose, you have to play the objectives. You can’t assume somebody else will do it. You can’t assume someone else on the team will grab the hardpoint while you run around racking up kills. You can’t assume someone else will cover your flag carrier while you hide out in a corner waiting for unsuspecting players to run into your field of vision. They won’t. In fact, they’re probably assuming the same thing about you. Even if they are playing the objectives, you can’t assume your randomly-assigned teammates are good enough to get the job done.
Play the Objectives
You need to score the objectives to win. That means everything you do, from who you shoot, where you go, what guns you equip, what perks you take, what grenades you use, and what scorestreaks you run, should be done with the objectives in mind. If you like to take objectives, smoke grenades, flakk jacket, and tac mask are almost essential. Engineer and black hats are also useful to spot and clear enemy defensive equipment. If you like to defend objectives, bring shock charges and bettys, and the hardline perk is a good idea to rack up those scorestreaks faster.
This will sound like heresy to a lot of players, but in objective-based missions, your kill count is almost completely irrelevant. Don’t worry about your kill/death ratio. While you don’t want to feed the enemy scorestreaks, you cannot be afraid to take one for the team. That bears repeating: you absolutely cannot be an effective objective player if you’re so worried about your kill/death ratio that you refuse to risk death to grab a flag/cap a hardpoint/plant a bomb. If you’re one of those folks who measures their success in K/D, go play team deathmatch instead, you’ll have a lot more success.
Putting it all together, the message of this article ought to be clear: Whether you’re playing 40k or CoD, play the objective and you’ll win more. While it may seem like complete common sense, you’d be surprised how many players of both games fall into the trap of racking up kills when they should be playing the objectives. If you can do both, great! If playing the objective seems like second nature already, great! But experience tells me that if you make securing the objectives your first priority, you’ll find your win/loss ratios climbing – whether you’re doing battle in the year 40,000 or the year 2025.