Annihilation: The Ultimate Maelstrom Experience?

Coming on April 9th, Guardian Games is hosting the 4th Annihilation tournament – Annihilation 4 This Time Its Personal. I had a blast at the first two tournaments, but was unable to attend the third. I personally don’t care for how Maelstrom works out of the rulebook, but this is a modified maelstrom event that has become my favorite version to date of this format. First, the rules for the tournament with a TL:DR at the bottom so stay and read to get the full deal or scroll for the short form.


This is a three-round single day tournament that encourages fun and camaraderie. It plays with a version of modified maelstrom (described below). It is, however, an ITC event and will award ITC standing points, and other than the mission style uses all the applicable ITC rules and FAQ.

This tournament takes “beer and pretzels” seriously – it is a potluck. Every player is required to bring food to share with the group. This is a requirement, just like buying a ticket. No food, no play. Guardian Games has been nice enough to let us continue the potluck tradition, but food only, no drink. All drinks (including alcohol) must be purchased from the store.  Because alcohol is available, this event is limited to players 21+ only. With 30+ players, each bringing 30+ food dishes, we should have quite the feast.

Army Composition

Per ITC Rules. Currently, that would mean 1850 pts, all current books and legal armies allowed. Max of 3 detachments. Forge world is allowed. Modified ranged D as per ITC rules.

Scenarios and Rules

Deck Building

Each player must bring a deck of 28 tactical objective cards. Since the basic deck contains 36 cards, this will mean players will customize the deck they bring. Decks must be built from the same source, ie you can use the main deck, or a race specific deck, but you cannot mix or combine.

Card Draw

When you draw a card, if it is impossible to achieve because of your opponent’s army, you may immediately discard it and draw another. (This does not apply if it is impossible to achieve because of your own army choices. You had the chance to fix that in customizing your deck.)

Cards that award d3 victory points award 2. If a card were to award more than 4+ points, it awards 3.

Maelstrom Victory Points

This tournament uses a modified version of Maelstrom that has worked well for us in the past. It helps to think of it like a tennis match, ie. game-set-match.

maelstrom ocean

You score tactical objective points as normal, ie at the end of each player turn. At the end of each GAME TURN you total who got the most tactical objective points for that turn. You only count points achieved that game turn, you do not carry over from previous game turns. (So unlike typical Maelstrom games, you don’t keep a running tally for the entire game). Whoever achieved the most tactical objective points won that turn. A win gets 2 set points. A tie gets each player 1 set point.

EXAMPLE: Susan achieves all three of her Maelstrom cards in turn 1, yielding her 3 Maelstrom points. Bob achieves only one his cards, but it’s a card that awards d3 maelstrom points. The tournament rules say d3 cards award a flat 2. So Susan wins GAME TURN 1, and is credited with 2 set points for her win.

The first player to accumulate 7 set points wins the match. The game ends at the conclusion of either the turn where a player reaches 7 set points, or the end of turn 6, whichever comes first. If, at the end of turn six neither player has accumulated 7 set points (because they tied all six turns), or they both reach 7 points at the conclusion of turn 6, then both players are credited with a tie for the match.

Winning the match is worth 6 battle points. A tie on the match is 3 battle points. In addition, you get one battle point for each of the four secondary objectives in the match. For a maximum possible 10 battle points each round. (Each round has 4 different ITC secondary objectives)



You build a deck of 28 cards from the maelstrom deck. Each turn you draw three cards and score at the bottom of the player turn. The player with the most points wins the turn and scores 2 points. Ties score each player 1 point. The first to 7 points wins. This keeps runaway rounds from skewing the game too much.


Maelstrom Mayhem

I love the concept of the Maelstrom missions. The idea of scoring as you go with different objectives each turn is great. The problem with it as many has seen is that when you add a hugely random element to a random game you get crazy randomness.

I’ve played games of Maelstrom where my opponent (Dr. Insanatron) scored 9 points the first turn. The game was over even before it began. Its things like this and the missions that can completely take the fun out of the game. The mission where you draw six cards and then draw fewer cards each turn can be devastating when you draw six cards you have little or no chance of completing and you can only discard one card a turn.

Official Maelstrom of the Frontline Universe?

I’d really like to push this as the official Maelstrom version of Frontline. So many people actually like the Maelstrom format and just let the super randomness slide off of their back. This really tightens the structure overall and makes it much more fair and enjoyable.

If you are interested in the Annihilation 4 tournament check it out here! What do you think about this version of Maelstrom? Try it out and post it below!

About CaptainA

Aaron is a longtime gamer of many systems. He is an avid community builder of 40k and after running many 40k events in Portland, Oregon, has recently moved to Boise, Idaho and continues to host and run leagues and events. He has also recently expanded his repertoire and entered the second hand Warhammer business. Check out his website at to see how he can help you get rid off your old and unused models.

10 Responses to “Annihilation: The Ultimate Maelstrom Experience?”

  1. Mediocre Gamer March 26, 2016 10:42 am #

    First of all, many thanks to CaptainA for the shout out for this event. Developing this format has been a labor of love for me. I personally love Maelstrom because it is random, and because I think it has a “it’s not over till it’s over” aspect to it that keeps players engaged and hopeful for the length of the game. The challenge was always dialing back the randomness.

    This ruleset started based on some conversations I had with some European players, a while after 7th dropped, who were playing Maelstrom in events far more than us in the U.S. The fruits of those conversations developed into the first iteration of these rules, and then feedback from the first three Annihilation tournaments were baked into new iterations, which has brought us toe the current ruleset.

    The tennis match style inserts series of safety valves between each round. No more running up the Maelstrom count 9-0 on turn 1 and having the game be over. It also ends a personal pet peeve hated aspect of the game to me – variable game length.

    For me, Annihilation style “tennis match” Maelstrom is not a replacement for traditional ITC events, but rather a supplement. I think it can be refreshing to play in a different format from time to time. It forces you to rethink certain tactical assumptions, and in doing that, it sometimes open your eyes to new ways to approach traditional ITC tactics. That’s a long way of saying that variety is the spice of life, and it’s fun to switch things up sometimes.

    So if anyone is around Portland on April 9th, sign up and try it out. Also, if anyone wants to run this style of event in your local area, please do. And I’d love to hear your feedback. I keep a running log of player feedback which I use to gauge future tweaks to the system.

    • fluger March 27, 2016 4:27 pm #

      I’ve been using your system for the last two WarPorch Tournaments and I love them!

  2. DCannon4Life March 26, 2016 11:29 am #

    Looks pretty cool.

    AdeptiCon is running a deck-building Maelstrom event this year. Check it out if you like:

    Primer Missions:
    Overall Rules (includes everything, but the deck-building rules are in there too):

  3. bogalubov March 26, 2016 12:50 pm #

    I totally support this becoming the maelstrom aspect of the ITC. I think it gives a lot more options for army building since you can gear your deck to the objectives your army can actually achieve. IG sure as heck can’t get across the table, but I can issue orders. GW already did the work of making faction specific missiobs

  4. westrider March 26, 2016 2:41 pm #

    Who among you still fears death? Who among you still fears…ANNIHILATION!

  5. abusepuppy March 27, 2016 12:51 am #

    I went to the last one and it was pretty cool- probably the best implementation of the Maelstrom rules I’ve seen yet. The few small issues that we ran into have mostly been tweaked and fixed, so I’m really looking forward to things this year.

    Also, having a full buffet of food on hand so you can eat all game long? Pretty sweet.

  6. Happy_inquisitor March 29, 2016 3:56 am #

    The slight niggle I have with this is that some of those changes overlap what the Tactical warlord traits do. It does seem to render that whole table worthless which is a shame as the ability to switch between worthwhile tables is supposed to be a balancing factor for generic HQs vs the predictability of fixed traits for named characters. Indirectly it just makes lists built around named characters more powerful.

    • abusepuppy March 29, 2016 6:15 am #

      None of them _completely_ invalidate any of the Tactical traits; indeed, I think rolling in the Tactical table is usually the correct choice in this kind of Maelstrom game, at least for many armies.

      • Happy_Inquisitor March 29, 2016 1:05 pm #

        The re-roll of random VP is pretty useless if you get a fixed 2 (or 4) points. I also think the extra discard traits are a lot less useful if you can deck-build to avoid useless cards and still discard anything not useful as a result of your opponent’s list.

        Don’t get me wrong there are things I really like here, especially the deck-building.

        • abusepuppy March 29, 2016 6:22 pm #

          Ah, true, I had forgotten about the reroll trait. But let’s be honest: most of the Tactical traits are pretty garbage to start with- maybe not as bad as Personal, but even in a Maelstrom game most of them simply don’t do anything like 70% of the time. The 1/6 chance you’ll get the ability to discard a second card each turn really doesn’t carry you very far, and being able to redraw your starting hand is even less relevant (especially if you’re playing something with a low starting maelstrom hand.)

          Really, though, that is just a symptom of the larger problem: namely, that the Maelstrom missions are fundamentally unbalanced and problematic. It’s a good _idea_ with a lot of possibilities, but in order to even make it reasonably playable you have to make major changes like the ones Annihilation or the ITC use. The fact that some facets of Maelstrom get caught in the crossfire when doing so is unfortunate, but you can hardly say that “basic” Maelstrom is any less full of holes.

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