You sit down to play a board game – everything is set up, someone is belching rules at you about how to move your game piece from one point to another, and you stare at the gigantic pile of game tokens (of which there are a thousand, because you’re playing a Fantasy Flight game). Suddenly, your ears perk up, because the resident instructor says…
This is how you win the game –
The latest edition of Warhammer 40k has provided us with one generic win condition – victory points – and two very different methods of determining how those points are obtained – Eternal War and Maelstrom missions. Since we’re all new to 7th Edition, it’s important to take a look at the differences between these two mission types and identify how they affect army builds/strategy.
For the purposes of this article, I will ignore the Eternal War mission based on gaining victory points solely for destroying enemy units (Purge the Alien). Some tournament missions may incorporate these so-called ‘Kill Points’, but this article is targeted towards the main rulebook, objective-based missions.
The majority of readers will know exactly what the rules for Eternal War missions are as they are largely unchanged. A good thing to note is that objectives are now setup before deployment type and zone are determined, allowing for players with aggressive armies to pressure static forces into mid-field. In an Eternal War mission, it is important to have scoring units that will survive for 3-7 turns and have an army that can damage enemy units to the point where they cannot threaten your objectives reliably. All scoring is completed at the end of the game, and therefore, the only scoring units that count are those that can survive through the final turn.
Maelstrom missions are entirely a different entity. Where Eternal War missions award survivability, Maelstrom missions grant victory points to armies who can react immediately to a different situation. Most of these missions work as follows – at the start of your turn, you generate a set number of Tactical Objectives, and at the end of your turn, you score any objectives that you have achieved, and discard a single Tactical Objective if you choose. Once an objective has been scored, the same player may not score that exact objective for the rest of the game. While most objectives grant one Victory Point, some have alternate conditions that offer d3 or even 3+d3.
In general, the higher number of Tactical Objectives that you can achieve in one turn, the better. We’re not going to approach any ‘next-level stuff’ here, like purposefully not attempting to score an objective because you think you can score d3 in the following turn. If you score every objective at your disposal every turn, you will most-likely win the game.
Now that we understand both ways that Victory Points can be gathered, it’s important to understand how it affects list-building. As a recap –
Eternal War rewards longevity; Maelstrom rewards adaptation.
At this point, building an army for an Eternal War mission should be second nature, and if not, there are plenty of articles and blogs dedicated to 6th Edition list creation. Maelstrom, however, is new, and terrifying. It still seems like the guy that drew the best cards won the game, and while that may end up being the case, there’s no way to know that for sure. As an example, think about all of the players you’ve faced that brought 5th Edition armies to a 6th Edition fight. How’d that go for them?
Maelstrom missions demand flexibility. 18 of the missions focus on controlling an objective (Secure Objective X) at the end of your turn, 6 require a decent number of scoring units (rolls 41-41), 9 revolve around destroying the enemy, and 3 show up for ‘random occasions’. In many games, you’ll roll ‘Control Objective 2’ and be standing on it. Congratulations! You’ve figured out how to put models on the table! The thing that will win Maelstrom missions for you in the long run is your army’s ability to capture distant objectives as soon as possible – and more importantly, sooner than your opponent. Your entire goal should be to cycle through as many Tactical Objectives as you can, and that means achieving every one the turn it’s generated.
How do you accomplish these goals? Fast Troops. Deep Striking units that don’t scatter. Have a psyker in your army. Use units that can move in the Shooting Phase, like Vehicles and Bikes. Make armies that have a large footprint, not single units that are extremely durable. If your army primarily moves 6” in the movement phase, consider adding some Transports or Deep Strikers – units that can respond immediately to a specific Secure Objective X. Use a good number of units so that when the all-important ‘40’s’ show up, you’re able to capitalize.
Maelstrom armies should look distinctly different than Eternal War armies. Can you make an army that’s okay for both sets of missions? Of course, but it will be at a distinct disadvantage to one designed for a specific style of play. This shouldn’t bother anyone, as Maelstrom and Eternal War are distinct styles of playing 7th Edition Warhammer 40,000. Time will show us if these missions are unbalanced, but for now, I’m certainly thankful that we’ve been provided with two different methods for playing 40k. In fact, I’d entertain playing the same person twice in a row – one Eternal War, one Maelstrom – to see who can build the better ‘general’ list; and to find out who’s buying the beers after the game, of course.