I'm not going to replace all three missions with Maelstrom so the way I see it there are two ways of introducing Maelstrom missions at Blog Wars. Firstly I could use a system like the ETC whereby Tactical Objectives are a secondary objective in every game. We played this at the recent team event we attended and, despite my initial fears that it would be too hard to keep track of two missions at once, I actually found it worked pretty well. Even so, I do think that it's perhaps a little overcomplicated for a friendly event like Blog Wars though. The other way to introduce Maelstrom (and the one I'm going to employ) is to simply swap the last mission for a Maelstrom mission. This has a few advantages. It changes up the final mission that seems to be a bit of Marmite issue, keeps the "score every turn" mechanic (which is a welcome break from frantic final turn shenanigans) and finally, makes use of a system that hopefully most players are familiar with. The final point there is important as, knowing that people don't read the rules pack sometimes, they'll still be able to get into their game quickly and feel like they know what they're doing.
There you have it then, the final mission at Blog Wars 9 will be a Maelstrom mission.
It's not quite that simple though. As I said I'm not a fan of the system in its current form so it needs a bit of tweaking to make it work. Ideally I'd like to have a system where the maximum number of points available for the round is 33 (as in the other rounds) so that you don't feel too shafted if you end up with a bad draw in the final round.
Tweaking the Tactical Objectives
The system we used at the team event caught my eye as a means of making the Tactical Objectives seem more "balanced" (inverted commas essential there as 40K is never truly balanced). I'm not totally sold on everything they've changed though so I'm going to use their method as a template for coming up with a Blog Wars system. The first thing they did was to clarify how Maelstrom missions work:
- No objective can be scored more than once per game
- Only two objectives can be scored per game turn
- Unachievable cards can be discarded
I'm not so keen on the two objectives each turn but it makes sense in the missions where you could have six cards on the table and feasibly score all or most of them. I'm intending to limit it to three cards generated per turn anyway though so I don't think that'll be an issue. Discarding unachievable ones at the start of the game is a good idea. This only applies to completely impossible ones like "kill a flyer" if your opponent doesn't have any and not to ones that are simply highly unlikely such as "control objective 5" when that's deep in your enemy's deployment zone and you're using a slower army.
They also subtly altered the wording on some of the cards to make it more reasonable. The most common change being replacing D3 VPs with simply a fixed 2 VPs, which again I'm a fan of. The random nature of Maelstrom doesn't need to be made worse by introducing dice on top of cards on top of dice!
Finally, they've also cut the deck in half so there's 18 cards (i.e. a D36 roll) which feels like a good number to me as it means you can have a rough idea of what cards might come up without needing Vegas style card counting skills. To do this they've ditched two thirds of the "hold an objective" cards leaving just one card for each of the 6 objectives. That's a pretty good start I reckon as you can end up with a daft situation where you get three cards for the same objective which again feels like the deck has won the game for you. That leaves us with 24 cards and therefore 6 more to get rid of. Their system loses 41, 43, 46, 55, 56 and 61. Let's have a quick look at those cards they ditched to see if I agree with the cuts.
- 41 (Recon) - pretty much everyone I know forgets Mysterious Objectives anyway so happy to lose this one.
- 43 (Hold the Line) - I actually think this one is pretty reasonable to keep. It could be difficult against some armies but shouldn't ever be totally impossible. If you really thought it was unlikely you could ditch it anyway.
- 46 (Domination) - you're pretty unlikely to have all the objectives but it nearly happened in a game I played today and would've been a pretty shitty way to lose.
- 55 (Psychological Warfare) - if you're playing a Fearless army it's impossible so I think it can go.
- 56 (Harness the Warp) - impossible for some armies but others won't even break a sweat for D3 VPs, I agree it should go.
- 61 (Kingslayer) - the Game of Thrones fan in me wants to keep this but since there's already a secondary VP for "Slay the Warlord" it seems a little pointless.
- 42 (Behind Enemy Lines) - they limit it to just 1 VP for one unit but I actually like the idea of having an extra point for three or more units. Only problem is that some armies will find that difficult. Again though, this could be ditched by players at the end of a turn.
- 44 (Ascendency) & 45 (Supremacy) - happy with both one with the caveat that it's 2 VPs not D3.
- 51 (Overwhelming Firepower) & 52 Blood and Guts - the team event made them 2 VPs for 3 units with nothing for 1 unit but I think they're better with 1 for 1 kill and 2 VPs for 3+ unit kills.
- 53 (No Prisoners) - they limit it to just 2 VPs for 3 units destroyed. I think that works well with 51 & 52 and rewards you for killing several units in one go. Of course you could achieve it the same turn as 51 or 52 but potentially you could kill 2 with shooting and one with combat and still achieve 53 without getting either of the other two.
- 54 (Hungry for Glory) - my army at the team event only had two characters which made this one very difficult for either me or my opponent to achieve. I'm tempted to ditch this one to be honest.
- 62 (Witch Hunter), 63 (Scour the Skies) & 55 (Big Game Hunter) - there are plenty of psykers, flyers, vehicles and MCs around these days so neither should be too difficult. That's assuming of course that you're allowed to discard them at the start of the game if your opponent doesn't have any.
- 64 (Assassinate) - they limit it to 1 VP for 1 character kill but I think having 2 VPs for 3+ would be fine as it's pretty unlikely to happen. Of course against some armies it'd be impossible to score 2 VPs but you should still be able to kill at least one.
- 65 (Demolitions) - this card is pretty much always ditched as it's rare to see opponents with a building anyway. I'd be tempted to get rid of this from the start as people will be ditching it anyway.
I think I'd be tempted to reinstate Hold the Line (43) in favour of Hungry for Glory (54). If I'm ditching Demolitions (65) I'd still need another card in but I think this is where the Blog Wars factor comes in. I could introduce a new card that gives 1 VP if you kill your opponent's "Commander" special character. Here's how I'd see the deck shaping up for Blog Wars then:
The colours down the side highlight that there are 6 cards worth 1 VP each (orange), 3 cards worth 1-2 VPs each (blue) and 9 cards worth 2 VPs each (green). If the game is limited to an automatic six turns it should make it possible to have a maximum score of 33 (including the 3 secondary objectives) but this is only with the Secure Objective cards being worth 2 VPs each which I'm not sure about. Of course, you'd still have to achieve all 3 missions in each of your 6 turns for the full 30 but it isn't totally impossible. This chart will feature on the scorecard for the tournament but I'm toying with the idea of producing custom decks to be issued to everyone to make things easier (and to help me test out the system before the event).
Ultimately I want to keep the semi-random feel of Maelstrom without it feeling completely unpredictable to the point where it rewards look rather than good generalship. I'd be running this as the last mission of the day using Cleanse and Control (p.148) but I'd use Dawn of War deployment to keep things simple. This is by no means set in stone yet because, as ever, I really want to hear your feedback especially if you're thinking of attending (but even if you're not). I want to put a bit more thought into how to make it a maximum of 33 VPs available. I think it'd be pretty straightforward to achieve but it's a task for another day I reckon.
Finally, tickets for Blog Wars 9 (which is on Saturday June 6th) will be up for sale in the next few days so keep an eye on the blog to grab yours. Remember it's open to anyone, not just bloggers.