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Maelstrom's Edge: To War!

Published on 30/04/2016

  • Maelstrom's Edge: To War!

As much as miniature wargamers enjoy cracking open the paint pots, or super gluing their fingers together during model assembly, the real reason why we're into miniature wargames is the cut and thrust of battle. The pain-staking approach to army building, death or victory hanging on the roll of a dice, the chance to crush your enemy before you. We all know it, we all love it. So with the unboxing done, the models assembled, and the paint pots stashed away - it's time to hit the table.

Now, we're all familiar with battle reports from White Dwarf over the years, reading the narrative description and following the pictures, but I thought I'd try something different. Naturally of course, there will be a brief narrative of the ebb and flow of battle, but this will be interwoven with a focus on the key game mechanics.

The reason for this is simple: Maelstrom's Edge is a game with great miniatures, but there are dozens of games out there with great miniatures, so what does Maelstrom Edge have in its locker to give it an advantage over its rivals?

First things first, let's get the deployment out of the way. Terrain is selected, armies deployed, and mission type chosen, and thanks to the handy little mission cards included with the box set, pre-deployment isn't the chore it is with some other games systems, 40k seems to take an age these days!

I'm quite intrigued by the prospect of the Karsist HQ choice (Kadar Nova) being able to blow itself up in battle, I plumped for them, whilst Zed, my erstwhile colleague chose the Eprian foundation, hoping that the robots would see off the threat of this insidious religious cult.

Having won the roll off for priority, I opted to go first. Priority is similar to other games systems, such as the old Lord of The Rings strategy battle game.

So, I've got first turn, now what?

Unit Activation

Unlike similar games such as Warhammer 40k, Maelstrom's Edge uses the alternate activation system for units. Put simply, I activate a single unit, carry out its actions, then my opponent does the same and back to me, and so on. Unlike the IGOYOUGO system, player participation is more involved, you don't stand around waiting for your opponent to move all his units, and more importantly, you don't stand around and watch helplessly as your opponent wipes all your units off the table without you being able to do anything in return. Yes, I'm looking at you 40k!

Such a system presents a different tactical approach, and makes inter-unit co-operation more important.

With that out the way, I moved my Karist troopers across the table into cover, and then had them open fire on Zed's unit of contractor engineers.

Shooting works the same as most other systems: check line of sight, roll to hit, roll to wound, roll to penetrate armour, etc etc

Crucially, though, there is one difference:

Suppression tokens

Anybody familiar with Games Workshop's Warhammer Epic 40,000 will remember the old suppression tokens. In Maelstrom's Edge, when a unit comes under fire, it takes suppression tokens for casualties, and automatically takes one token just for being a primary target. Soldiers naturally tending towards self-preservation, hit the dirt and dig in.

Supressed units naturally, can be pinned, and depending on the number of tokens they take, will find it hard to carry out actions. In order to activate a unit, you must pass a discipline check, which becomes trickier the more suppression tokens a unit has.

The tactical element speaks for itself. With the engineers pinned down by shooting, another one of my units can move in for the kill, and finish it off with some close range shooting or close combat!

With my unit moves completed, it was Zed's turn to activate a unit.  Zed has the option of activating two units, but decided to opt for activating the engineers and getting them into some good cover.

Versus Rolls

Maelstrom's Edge uses a versus rolls system in order to simply the dice rolls and make it easy to remember. It does this by comparing rolls. For example, on Zed's discipline check to activate the engineers, you match the willpower of the unit against number of suppression tokens. Too simplify, If it's equal, it's 4+, one worse, 5+, one better, 3+ and so on. Easy to remember, and refrains you from having to consult tables mid-game, which slows things down. Having passed the discipline check, the engineers moved into cover, and hunkered down, leaving me to activate another Karist unit.

 

Victory Points

Unlike other games systems, Maelstrom's Edge forgoes the use of fixed turns. Instead, victory points are tracked, and if and depending on the mission, if you reach the victory points total before your opponent, you win. The sudden death element makes for a tense shoot out, as the ebb and flow of the game could see victory conditions change at the drop of the hat.

Having spent time slogging across the battlefield, mine and Zed's army had knocked lumps out of each other, with units being destroyed and re-deployed as reserves (another gameplay feature) and the Mature Angel proving to be a tough cookie to take down. Disappointingly, my HQ unit never got the chance to blow himself up, having been gunned down by an opposing sniper robot! Always keep your leaders in cover!

The Bad

Having waxed lyrical about some of the elements I enjoyed, it's time to highlight areas that could do with improvement. Despite being a durable beast, the order in which the rules are laid out within the rulebook could be arranged better in a more coherent matter. When you know the rules, the order in which they are written makes sense, but when you're learning the ropes, it can be confusing at times. The absence of a quick reference sheet, as highlighted in the first blog, is a minor drawback in this regard.

Minor quibbles aside, the different elements did combine to make an enjoyable game, and there was a marked difference in deployment and overall game time compared to other systems, so there's a lot going for Maelstrom's Edge. Overall, It's a nice rules set.

In part 4, I'll conclude my overall thoughts on Maelstrom's Edge and give it a final rating. 

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