As part of our ongoing series of articles about the new maelstrom rules (part 1 here, part 2 here, in case you missed them), we thought it would be good to include a battle report for some additional context. Last weekend two of my players in the Astradus Campaign, Catachan Hero BuffaloChicken and uh, Brandon, played a campaign game using the new rules. Because we were working on the series and I was interested, I asked them to document the game and their experiences and give some of their thoughts on the new Maelstrom rules.
In Round 3 of the Astradus Campaign, armies have moved up to 1,500 points in size. For their “any challenger” mission this week, Brandon and BuffaloChicken chose to play each other. The original mission was Maelstrom of War: Visions of Victory, but because the new Maelstrom rules had just come out, we agreed to play this one using the new, superior rules.
Grey Knights vs. Chaos Daemons, a classic story of David and Goliath. Brandon’s Nurgle Daemons and Death Guard are led by Danzig, a Spoilpox Scrivener who has devoted himself to the Lord of Plagues. His Daemonic Legions started off slow in the campaign, but have been gaining steam as Brandon has built his army. Danzig is a custom warmaster represented by one of the Gellarpox Infected models and has the following custom character traits: +1 Wound, Can only be wounded on a 4+, Acid Blood, and a 6″ aura for re-rolling failed morale tests.
Brandon’s army is a mix of Plaguebearer- and Nurgling-heavy Nurgle Daemons (with a healthy count of daemon princes), plus some a couple of Death Guard heavy hitters–notably, a pair of Plagueburst Crawlers (the Beetle is being used as a Crawler) and a Contemptor Helbrute. Brandon’s using some Age of Sigmar stuff for some of his conversions, including the Alarielle model as the Daemon Princess Amy Grimehouse. Also there’s some Mansions of Madness models in there being used as cultists and another daemon prince.
On the other side was BuffaloChicken’s army, who are essentially squats, but represented rules-wise by a mix of Grey Knights and Space Wolves. BC’s commander is Skug Scrunterssen, a Wolf Lord who leads a squad of Squat Berserkers (Wulfen) in battle, while the majority of the Grey Knights are presented as Squat rune-priests. The whole army is insanely well-put together and a joy to play against. Scrunterssen is a custom Warlord with the following traits: Regains 1 Wound per turn, Can only be wounded on a 4+, Can re-roll failed charges, and +1 Attack.
BuffaloChicken’s army consists of Skrunterssen and his Wulfen, plus a Dreadknight (the Narrative Forge, in the back there), a Dreadnought, an Apothecary, and 2 squads of Paladins plus 2 squads of Terminators. There’s also another Grey Knights Librarian in the bunch.
In the new Maelstrom rules, players build their own 18-card tactical objective decks before each game, then draw from those decks each turn. Because this is a campaign game and we’re playing largely “Narrative” format, I allowed players to bring and use faction-specific objectives. Cycle of Life is basically free points for a Nurgle army, while Touched by the Warp acts essentially as a second Master the Warp if you aren’t running Tzeentch Daemons, which is to say, still great. The Great Game is a weird add here, where I’d have looked at Witch Hunter instead, particularly against the Grey Knights. On the other hand, Defend Objective is a great addition to any army that has Nurglings who can begin the game sitting on objectives.
Brandon took advantage of the ability to bring Daemons objectives and stacked his deck with pro-Nurgle stuff.
Secure Objective 1-6
Defend Objective 1-6
Blood and Guts
Cycle of Life (Chaos Daemons)
Master the Warp
Touched by the Warp (Chaos Daemons)
Dominion of Chaos (Chaos Daemons)
The Great Game (Chaos Daemons)
BC’s strategy was heavily-focused around killing stuff, going light on Secure/Defend in favor of more kill-focused objectives. As a pretty elite group, his Grey Knights have two main weaknesses: A small model count (who die as easily as regular marines), and low mobility, outside of his ability to cast Gate of Infinity with three of his units. To mitigate this, he decided to double down on three objective cards, knowing he could move confidently toward those and knowing with certainty that those would be the ones that came up as he cycled through the cards. In his words, “I was concerned that if I had one of each, I’d be paralyzed in my momentum for fear of needing to double back at the next draw.”
In addition to those points, Behind Enemy Lines and Hunt with Cunning also synergize very well with Gate of Infinity.
Secure Objective 1/2/3
Defend Objectives 1/2/3
Hold The Line
Master the Warp
Behind Enemy Lines
The Stuff of Saga (Space Wolves)
Hunt with Cunning (Space Wolves)
Oath of Vengeance (Space Wolves)
Blood and Guts
Grey Knights won the roll to pick their deployment zone, leading to Daemons deploying first and taking the first turn. As expected, Brandon started with Nurglings on the forward objectives to make it easier to snag early “Secure Objective X/Defend Objective X” cards he’d happen to draw, which paid off almost immediately. Otherwise, his first turn was fairly uneventful–most of his powers were out of range and his Plagueburst Crawler whiffed all of its shots.
The Grey Knights move up and attempt to counter, blowing the Nurglings off the central objective (albeit too late), while the Paladins’ attempt to use Gate of Eternity to move behind the Daemon army is negated, preventing them from scoring a point.
Score at the end of Battle Round 1: 4-2.
Brandon’s Notes: My initial hand was as good as I could ask for. I got a lot of secure and defend objectives that I already had. I secured something and got Touched by the Warp on my turn and I played Defend Objective to score that on BuffaloChicken’s turn, thus emptying my active objective slots for the next turn.
On Turn 2, Brandon swept forward with his daemons, hoping to get in the Grey Knights’ faces and keep them tied up all game. Having multiple Daemon Princes bearing down on you can be pretty scary, unless you’re BuffaloChicken, I guess.
Brandon’s big gamble was attempting to take on the Narrative Forge, a Nemesis Dreadknight, using his Daemon Prince and Princess, Bob Gnarly and Amy Grimehouse. The two make a pretty formidable pair, and dropped 11 Wounds on the Dreadknight, but weren’t able to finish it, and that’d prove to be disastrous later on. Brandon scores 3 more points on objectives during his turn by scoring another Secure Objective X, Dominion of Chaos, and Master the Warp, bringing the score up to 7-2, Daemons.
The big problem is that Brandon was now overexposed against the Dreadknight, and was open to being assaulted the following turn by Wulfen and Grey Knight Terminators, who swept in and dropped enough wounds through smite and close combat to kill both Daemon princes, allowing BC to score multiple objectives and evening the score up at 7-7.
Brandon’s Notes: [On turn 2] I played a secure, dominion of chaos, and Master the Warp. Unfortunately the Grey Knights were very good at stopping my psykers and I did not manifest 3 powers to get the D3 victory points. I’ll note that I had picked up cards for both Secure Objective 1 and 2 in my hand, both of which were in BuffaloChicken’s deployment zone. I didn’t want to spend the CP to discard them so it kind of forced my hand (pun INTENDED).
On the following turn (3), Brandon moves his Contemptor up and uses it to finish off the Dreadknight, then groups up with some Plague Bearers to take on the Wulfen, swarming them in the middle of the table. Brandon also gambles big on his ability to score Objective 1 in the enemy deployment zone: He uses Daemonic Incursion to bring back Bob Gnarly, who makes a run at the enemy deployment zone, but whiffs the charge and leaves Brandon holding a hand of dead cards. Daemon turn 3 ends with no new points scored and the game tied at 7-7.
The Plague Bearers and Wulfen exchange blows, with the Wulfen managing to shrug most of them off — at one point, BC’s lone Storm Shield Wulfen tanked 11 wounds in a row from the Plague Bearers. The big showdown happens on BC’s turn, when his warmaster Skug Scrunterssen charges the Contemptor. Scrunterssen already had some wounds on him but killed the dreadnought, only for it to explode into a shower of puss and fire, killing Skug, a few Wulfen, and some Plague Bearers. The Warlord kill helped push Brandon up to a 12-10 lead at this point.
Brandon’s Notes: I needed to get some points this turn so I played 2 Defends and Secure objective 1 since Bob Gnarly had infiltrated the backfield and I figured he could take the 5 GKs. He failed his charge and I probably should have learned my lesson, but I’m not smart. Meanwhile I had Defend Objective 3 which had a tank and poxwalkers on it in my deployment zone and I knew BuffaloChicken couldn’t take. So I played defend objective 5 – the one with my one base of Nurglings on it in the tower – face down. I knew BuffaloChicken couldn’t take it, but he could stop me from having it if he knew I needed it. This play worked out because it caused BC to shoot at Bob rather than the Nurglings because he got spooked about the DP in his backfield. He actually MEANT to shoot the Nurglings to score for killing a unit in the Shooting phase (Overwhelming Firepower), so my distraction both cost him points and gained me points. The Warlord kill was a little cherry on top of a good turn – it was a fun moment when we realized I scored more points than BC after HIS turn.
Not everything works out so well for Brandon, as Bob Gnarly only killed 4 of the 5 Grey Knights on Objective 1. The lone survivor used his ObSec to deny Bob the objective, then passed his morale test and smote Bob to death on the following turn.
Turn 4 also sees the Plague Bearers finally wipe out the Wulfen, the Grey Knight terminators killing one of the Plagueburst Crawlers (and losing 2 of their number in the resulting stratagem-forced explosion). At this point Brandon’s in an OK spot, but it’s still anyone’s game.
Brandon’s Notes: this turn I had a decision to make and I probably picked the wrong one. I had secure objective 1 (see above w/ bob, in BC’s deployment zone) on the board so I could only pick 2 new cards. I was fairly confident Bob could take Objective 1 (SPOILERS: HE DIDN’T) so I reviewed my cards. I had: secure Objective 2 (in the Grey Knights’ deployment zone), Secure Objective 4 where one of my Plagueburst Crawlers was parked), Defend Objective 1 (also in the GK deployment zone), and Cycle of Life. My notes here are bad. Anyway, I was like “FUCK IT” and doubled down on trying to capture objective 1. All I had to do was kill 5 Grey Knights and not lose 6 wounds. For a daemon prince should be no big deal, right? RIGHT? So I played Defend Objective 1 face-down and decided to go for the melee kill to score Cycle of Life rather than Secure Objective 4. The Terminators had only been doing like 2 wounds to the PBC each turn and it had like 7 left so I figured I had one more turn before it died. Well AS WE KNOW, Mr. Bob shat the bed and the PBC exploded so both of those plans were smashed. I scrounged some points with my melee kill but it could’ve been such a lucrative turn. After the morale phase I discarded my active shame cards to start fresh next turn.
In Turn 5, things come to a head. Brandon plays Secure Objective 5 and The Great Game and rolls a 4, meaning he’ll need one more objective to get his big score. The good news is he can kill two birds with one stone here. He moves his Warmaster, Danzig to challenge the dreadnought sitting on Objective 5. Danzig deals a few wounds to it and eventually kills it with the mortal wounds dealt from his ichor blood when the dreadnought swings back at him. Removing it allows Danzig to capture the Objective for the Daemons and gives them a whopping 4 Victory Points for The Great Game.
Meanwhile the Plaguebearers took on the Librarian and wiped him off the table when he failed all four of his 3+ armor saves.
At the middle of Turn 5, Brandon has scored 5 more points to bring the score up to 18-14 in favor of the daemons. Visions of Victory indeed.
Forces are dwindling at this point, but the Grey Knights aren’t out of it. They’ve still held their backfield and the Daemons only have a single Plagueburst Crawler and no daemon princes left to work with. The Grey Knights Apothecary moves in on Danzig and puts the final few wounds on him to finish the job, earning him 1 VP for Slay the Warlord (plus a campaign victory point for a warmaster kill). They also score for Capturing two objectives, which brings them within 1 point at the end of turn 5. The score is now 18-17. At this point the players roll for Random Battle Length and Brandon rolls for the game to continue, giving the Grey Knights a chance to take it.
Brandon’s Notes: I played Secure Objective 5 and Danzig scored it for me. I also played the Great Game because I have a lot of faith in chaos and praise Nurgle it paid off.
On turn 6, the tides turn against the Daemons as the Grey Knights are able to rally their remaining forces. With so little left on the table, Brandon is unable to score anything on his turn and he’s got tough objectives anyways — Secure and Defend for Objective 2, in the Grey Knights deployment zone, and Secure Objective 4.
On their turn, the Grey Knights get to work. The Apothecary is able to make short work of the remaining three Plaguebearers and the Sloppity Bilepiper, which scores BuffaloChicken a point for Assassinate. The Grey Knight Terminators in Brandon’s Deployment Zone give him Linebreaker, making the score 18-20 in favor of the Grey Knights. Although the players rolled for the game to continue to turn 7 at this point, there was no feasible path to victory for the remaining Daemons and so Brandon conceded, his Daemons vanishing back into the warp after being thwarted once again by the Grey Knights. Or uh, Squats in this case.
Game Result: Squats Victory, 20-18
Brandon’s Notes: Really great game with BuffaloChicken. Tight the whole time, both teams scoring points and destroying units. It really came down to whether or not we got the turn 6 to decide the game. The new maelstrom rules are awesome–they allow you to plan out turns and maximize your points rather than relying on random draws with shitty, hard-to-achieve objectives. Great improvement and I look forward to playing more maelstrom games like this. At the end my hand was Secure 2, Defend 2, and Secure 4, plus two others I couldn’t score. I was too far away on T5 to run a unit from objective 3 over to objective 4 to secure it – I would have gotten close with the PBC but then it wouldn’t have been able to shoot so i opted for shooting instead. On T6 I wished I had moved it closer to objective 4 so I could’ve scored it that turn, and I probably should have moved it on T6 hoping/planning for T7, but I again chose to go for more shooting instead. I didn’t score on 6 but BuffaloChicken did, going into 7 I couldn’t score what was in my hand… at best I could get 1 point but then BuffaloChicken would go and he could likely score again, so we called it.
BuffaloChicken’s Notes: My plan to only roll with 3 objectives in the Secure/Defend pile worked – I was able to confidently stake out two of the three I had included in my deck, so when they turned up, I was ready to score them immediately. Since you can only Gate of Infinity a maximum of one unit a turn, I took objectives that would still work even with that limited mobility – the Space Wolf objective “Hunt with Cunning” rewards you for finishing off an enemy with a friendly unit that was placed on the table that turn, so I can teleport-snipe a weak unit. Behind Enemy Lines also works just fine with a lone teleporter.
I also want to reinforce Brandon’s point about the “hidden” objective being an important and excellent part of gameplay. I definitely put thought into which objectives were kept secret, and it definitely informed my gameplay.I had a relatively vulnerable unit on one objective, and a stronger unit on the other. I made a show of bolstering the stronger one and revealed that objective card. By keeping the vulnerable unit’s objective secret, Brandon ignored the unit he could have otherwise killed. So you can reveal cards to draw enemy’s fire away from the units whose survivability concerns you. I also kept the Space Wolves “Stuff of Saga” objective secret. It grants extra victory points if a Space Wolf character kills a model. Since my Warmaster can move/advance/charge, his threat bubble is large and not immediately evident. By keeping that secret, Brandon didn’t put special thought into withdrawing from Skug, bubble-wrapping a vulnerable model, or going out of his way to exterminate Skug as an imminent threat (Skug is the only SW character in my army, so having that objective revealed would have made any plan of mine readily evident and easy to counter).
Overall, this is exactly the kind of game and strategic depth we were imagining when we read the new Maelstrom rules, and we’re excited to play more games with them!