Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lunch session: Maelstrom

Today, Jack and I got together for a 45 minute game of Maelstrom during lunch. This typically isn't enough time to finish a whole game, in my experience. But we went at it anyway and had a great time playing.

For those of you who are familiar with Maelstrom (aka Vortex), we've been using 15-tile forces. The reason for this is that we thought it would make for shorter games. I still haven't tested larger forces to see if this is true. Opinions?

Jack played the Brood and I played the Draconis.

Rather than recount the entire session for you, I'll mention the highlights.

After the first couple rounds, the board looked like this:

If you haven't played Maelstrom, the red swirly thing in the middle is the vortex. Our goal as players is to summon minions and strongholds to control sides of the vortex. Controlling more sides is the key to victory. Early in the game, each player will typically control 3 sides each. During the game, we attempt to destroy each other's tiles and put our own tiles adjacent to the vortex. After 3 turns of having fewer tiles adjacent to the vortex than your opponent, you lose.

To the far right, you can see that Jack played a Thlotas Worm Tower. None of my minions with 1 Combat (attack power) may move next to it. That was problematic because my stronghold on that side was only able to bring in small guys. My other two strongholds were used to bring in my big guys. So that Worm Tower was a good placement for Jack. It kept me from wrapping around that side of the board (called the "mass") with my small minions.

Before long, I pulled out a really tough minion - the Draconoid Battlelord. Typically, something this powerful is very useful if you can get him our early in the game. That was my plan, but I made a big blunder on one of my turns. I should have moved my Battlelord in and started destroying things. I wasn't looking ahead at his potential because I forgot that he could use two minions to attack at one time.It started like this:

Here, Jack is moving his Gallag K'rol adjacent to my sweet little setup of tough guys. Soon after, he also brought his Gallag T'ral, who is quite powerful. Before I knew what was happening, he attacked my mighty Battlelord with both of his Gallag minions. Fortunately, I got to counterattack and take down his Gallag K'rol. The aftermath looked like this:

So I was bummed to have lost my Battlelord that quickly, having never pulled off any damage. Grrrr.

To my benefit, all the necessary components of my best combo became available to me. Once I had saved up enough energy counters, I put my plan into action. The was my only hope of recovery. So, I played an event called Waking the Ancients, giving a -2 to the cost of summoning dragon minions for that turn. I used a combined total of 3 output from two adjacent strongholds, and added 3 energy counters for a total of 6 output. That was enough to bring out this guy:

This badboy is an 8-cost Legendary minion called Dnotai Battlemaster. He is a dragon minion with Flying, Overpower, and Attack Mastery. In other words, this dude is hard to stop. See those stats? The 3s on the left and right are high stats. You want 3s on a minion- they are very good. Had I not achieved this lucky combo (Waking the Ancients + Dnotai Battlemaster), I may not have lasted much longer. Jack was making good decisions, especially on the other side of the mass.

Jack was chipping away at one of my Fiery Peaks. He soon destroyed it, consumed the energy it left, and summoned his own Thlartaras Tangler in that space.

This is one messed-up creature. Looking at his numbers, he's nothing special, but there's a reason he costs 3 output to summon. Look at that ability: "Adjacent enemy minions have zero combat". This means he can only be destroyed by minions with a ranged attack, or by some other form of non-combat damage. Ranged units are very rare in Maelstrom, and I have none in the Draconis force I was using. So this guy was invulnerable. Jack had guaranteed himself a nice position on the vortex. I was now down to 2 tiles on the vortex. At the end of my turn, I lost an essence counter - the first of the game.

I soon got another Draconoid Battlelord out on the table and was able to use a my minions on that side of the mass to regain a slot on the vortex. When our time was up, the board looked like this:

We were tied in terms of slots on the vortex - 3 and 3. I had lost one essence counter; Jack had lost none. Since we were both almost out of tiles, we decided to mark out what we would have done in subsequent turns to see how the game would have panned out.

With my Dnotai Battlemaster, I had destroyed his most powerful unit - Soul Captor. Because of the Battlemaster's Overpower ability, I had taken no damage in the exchange. I thought Jack had a strong hold on the vortex with his Tangler, but he felt like he was out of options. With the huge Battlemaster out there, it was only a matter of time before the Draconis minions would ravage the lands and take control of the vortex. Either way, we had fun. Now, we're looking forward to designing 25-tile forces and seeing how those play out!

If you haven't played Maelstrom, but are interested, I'm sorry to tell you that the game is out of print. The good news is, there are still a few boxes floating around out there. I got mine on Amazon, believe it or not. There are also people on BGG who have copies for trade. Expansions might be harder to find. The expansions contained all the "rare" tiles, including Relics and Events. If you look hard enough, you could probably round up enough stuff to have a playable collection. It's really a bummer the game went out of print because it's fun, unique, and has many good features from other games jammed into one. I would link you to sites but it seems most of them are shut down now. If you're interested in this game at all, nab it while you can because it's getting harder and harder to find!

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