Maelstrom Missions are, without a doubt, my favorite way of playing 40K. I’ve found the games to be closer, more dynamic, and more engaging. They do add an element of randomness, but to be frank, I think this is a feature, not a bug. In an unbalanced game (which 40K is), random elements cause the probability of each army winning to revert toward the mean (50%). This is a good thing.
I’ve got the faction-specific cards for every faction in the game I play, and each adds just a nice, pleasant little dash of flavor (though one of the Eldar cards has an omission that drives me to distraction). So needless to say, I picked up the new Supremacy Objectives, curious as to how bigger, bolder and harder to achieve objectives would play.
While the cards have been out for awhile now, I wanted to actually get some games under my belt to see how they played. All of these games gave me what I was looking for out of a Maelstrom-style game of 40K – a close, dynamic and engaging game.
Quality-wise, the cards are pretty close to the standard weight of the psychic power decks, and pretty much as-expected. The larger size of the cards is honestly a little puzzling. First, the larger format takes up more room on the tabletop, and between keeping track of the cards in your hand, those objectives that have been achieved, etc. they actually get a little cumbersome unless you have a generous between table and play space. Second, the larger format makes them incompatible with the other objectives – despite the fact that GW says you can mix-and-match the faction specific cards with their appropriate counterparts in the Supremacy deck. It’s a weird decision – presumably to accommodate the somewhat lengthier objective text – and somewhat irksome.
But the content of the cards themselves? Excellent. Gone, by and large, are the “This was never achievable in a game” cards (destroy a building…). While that was trivially house-rulable (I’ve yet to play in a group that didn’t let you redraw in such a circumstance) it’s also nice not to have to. Especially in tournaments and organized play settings. The objectives themselves are also more clever, and require somewhat more setup – biding your time, thinking one or two turns down the road, and aren’t all built around holding objectives (which will be handy as formations without Objective Secured become more popular). It’s been rare for me to draw a card that wasn’t worth competing for – but it’s also been rare that I just experienced a turn of “Draw card, collect victory”. Also interesting is the slight incentive toward taking objectives one way or another via close combat, a subtle rebalancing of an undeniably ranged combat friendly edition. I’m not convinced it will be enough to entirely haul things back to the center, but it’s definitely a benefit toward those forces who know their way around a chainsword.
This is, naturally, purely my opinion, but I think Maelstrom is the best way to play the game, and these cards are the best expression of that. Eternal War missions lend themselves extremely well to what I’ve come to refer to as “Operation Table Your Opponent”, or plans that boil down to the first turn, or the last. And, importantly to me, games where the winner is obvious. In the several games I’ve now played with these cards, there’s always been a reason to keep fighting – even battered, and losing ground, there’s still points to be made, and the possibility of victory. And to my mind, a hard-fought loss where every turn mattered trumps a quick win when it comes to my enjoyment of the game.
The dynamics of the cards I think also help address certain imbalances in the game. As mentioned, random elements can actually help balance in a skewed game – if one side is heavily favored to win (say, Eldar…) random elements help pull their odds down. It also forces players to adapt their plans as new conditions pop up – do they overextend themselves to claim a high value card? Do they abandon their interlocking defenses? Do they sacrifice a key unit? Or equally, do they remain behind to continue to garrison a key objective for another turn or two? The nice part of this is that the Supremacy cards, while high value, also take more doing, adding an element of risk for greater reward.
They’re how I want to play the game. I’d love to see them used in organized play. Frankly, they’re one of my favorite products GW has released recently.
I just wish they were a little smaller.
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