9th edition Maelstrom

Maelstrom of War is one of my favourite ways to play 40k, using tactical objectives that are achieved over the course of the battle. The sort of things you hear in battle reports like “monster slayer” and “defend objective three” and such, it’s sadly not something that a lot of people around me like to play. I think the idea of changing, random objectives throughout the battle doesn’t appeal to a lot of tactically-minded players, who want a straight run at victory.

The Maelstrom format was new for 7th edition, with a whole bunch of tactical objectives that were generated on a D66 roll. When new codexes came out, you could also get datacards that provided a deck themed to your army, with predominantly the same cards in each one, save for the first six that were unique for your guys. Notably in 9th, Maelstrom of War disappeared from the rulebook, and the packs of cards that you buy alongside the codex is principally the stratagem suite, with psychic powers and whatnot filling them out. White Dwarf 461, from all the way back in February 2021, gave us beta rules for Maelstrom in 9th edition, a series of twelve pages of rules that allow you to play in this manner.

There are six categories of Tactical Objectives, which are a bit more prescriptive than we’ve seen before, as they tie in much more strongly to the mission you’re playing. In short, when you pick one from the six missions included in this rules pack, it tells you to select three categories, then you roll a D3 to determine from which category that you generate your objectives. So if you chose your first category to be from the Holding the Line category, you would need to roll a 1 or 2 to ensure you can generate an objective from that category. There is one mission where all six objective categories are on offer, though.

The missions are otherwise really quite bland, with just one specific rule for each, such as keeping objectives secret until scored, or players preventing their opponent from scoring one of the objectives that round, etc. Not that they necessarily need a great deal of rules etc, but still.

It’s quite random, for sure, and you could pick three categories but end up generating all three from the same category. When you come to actually generate your objectives from the category, you roll a D6 and see what you’ve got (with rules for changing this if the objective is unachievable for any reason). There are four specific stratagems for use with this way of playing, and all interact with the tactical objectives in some manner. The first objective is worth more victory points than any other in each chart, and there is a stratagem to change the roll to a 1 to give you a chance at that objective during the round (but you can only use it once per round, of course).

The format appears to have morphed into Tempest of War, a pack of cards that recently came out that sounds very similar to the old Open War playstyle, but here you select the mission (from a set of 6) and deployment (from a further 6 cards), then a mission rule (from a set of 12 cards) and away you go. Each player gets a deck of 20 secondary objectives, and this is where the ebb and flow of the game comes in, basically replicating Maelstrom of War but without the massive deck of cards that could sometimes make the older format a bit too random.

Notably, Open War does still exist for 9th edition, with the pre-existing format adapted and changed up. With the way that 9th edition works, with secondary objectives and all the rest of it, Open War is a bit of an odd duck, though, as a lot of armies are being engineered in a different direction. They’re great for playing the odd game, but I think we’ve all come to expect something a lot more from 9th edition now, and Open War feels like a bit of a relic at this point.

I’m a big Maelstrom fan, but I realise that part of that is down to nostalgia for how I learnt to play 40k from battle reports. Tempest of War sounds like just the sort of thing that I’ve been looking for since 9th edition launched, striking a balance between the old Open War and my beloved Maelstrom of War. I’m still thinking that I might try to play with those beta rules at some point, but ultimately, I think this Tempest of War sounds like it could well be a whole lot of fun!