Maelstrom's Edge is an in-depth, squad-based skirmish tabletop game, focused on roughly 20-30 models per side. It is both fresh and exciting whilst familiar and logical, featuring alternating unit activation and fistfuls of six-sided dice. Its tactics center on the concepts of cover, maneuver, facing and suppression, plus a number of exciting ancillary elements, such as reinforcements, turn-based scoring and sudden-death victory conditions.
Maelstrom's Edge is firmly squad-based gameplay, which means you activate, move and shoot whole units, not the individual models within them. However, these are smaller fire-team sized units, typically containing between 1-5 models, comprising an overall force of roughly 20-30 models per side. Units have a wide variety of tactical options to choose from when activated, akin to the options a single model in a pure skirmish game has.
Each turn, players can activate either one or two of their units in a row. This allows you to press the immediate advantage by activating two units in a row, or instead, wait to see what your opponent will do by activating only a single unit. There are however, a couple of twists: the player with the first opportunity to activate a unit, known as the priority player, may only activate a single unit for this initial activation. Conversely, the non-priority player always has the option to hold their very last unit as the final activation of the turn.
Though the unit sizes are small, the amount of dice they generate when firing is anything but. If you enjoy rolling handfuls of six-sided dice, then this game is for you. Nearly all the rolls in Maelstrom's Edge are what is known as a versus (VS.) roll. The formula for determining whether a versus roll is a success or failure is always the same across the entire game, meaning it is simple and fast to learn.
Suppression plays a major role in Maelstrom's Edge, and features cinematic suppression tokens (STs) on the tabletop to represent it. The more suppression a unit has, the less likely it is able to choose the action it will perform when it activates. Units taking cover are incredibly difficult to destroy, but tend to wrack up tons of suppression, making them vulnerable to deadly short-ranged firefights and close-quarters attacks. Every time you shoot, you pile on suppression, so even if you dont kill or wound the enemy, you can still cripple their tactical plans.
COVER & FACING
Cover is a squad's lifeblood, with only the fool or master-strategist willing to leave their unit in the open for long. A squad's line of sight and facing is determined by their squad leader model and Maelstrom's Edge features bases with easily distinguishable front/rear arc markings to help establish this. Shooting at an enemy unit's rear arc greatly reduces the protection they receive from being in cover.
Karist Troopers take cover behind a crate
Any time a unit is fired upon by an enemy within short range, they first get to fire a round of defensive fire. However, the amount of suppression the unit has on it determines whether this defensive fire is incredibly deadly or just a minor nuisance. Therefore, properly suppressing an enemy unit before attempting to engage it at close-range is the key to success.
Players generate a number of command points each turn based on the current turn plus the amount of command models they have on the table. Command points are a currency of sorts that can be used in a number of different ways: to bring back destroyed units as reinforcements, to prevent the enemy from bringing back their reinforcements and to reduce suppression on units near your command models.
Each turn, you can attempt to bring back one unit destroyed previously in the game, however you must win a secret command point bidding war against your opponent to do so. But remember, winning this bidding war means you'll have less command points to prevent the enemy from bringing back their reinforcements and less ability to reduce suppression on your units as well.
TURN-BASED MISSION SCORING
Each Maelstrom's Edge mission is comprised of 3 different objectives, one of which is always based upon the faction you're playing. Standard games are 5 turns long, but victory points for the mission are tabulated at the end of each and every turn. If you can manage to reach the specified total to complete the mission while outpacing your opponent by a wide enough margin, then the game immediately ends with you as the victor! This makes accomplishing mission objectives from the first turn to the very last of paramount importance.
The 144 page Maelstrom's Edge rulebook is available for purchase right now in PDF format, or as a printed copy in the Battle for Zycanthus box set which includes a free digital copy of the rules as well.